A chance encounter at the ‘L’ brought home for me the daily reality of underpaid workers. A middle-aged man dressed in a uniform explained that his minimum wage job doesn’t even pay enough for him to rent a small studio apartment on his own. That same day the Chicago Tribune reported that the average apartment rental in Chicago is now $1,100 per month, with more high-end rentals opening every month. My new friend explained that he shares an apartment with another man, or else he would have to choose between paying rent and buying food.
He looked way off into the distance, and his voice became wistful. As if he were talking to himself he quietly said, “Fifteen dollars… A living wage… Now that would be real good.” As he came back into the present moment, he thanked me for working on this issue with Interfaith Worker Justice. Walking away, he shook his head and said under his breath, “I wish I knew more people like you.”
My friend’s thanks really go to everyone who works on the important issues of worker justice. How blessed we are when we know that others stand in solidarity with us!
It reminds me of the lyrics to the Mat Maher song Hold Us Together:
“It don't have a job, don't pay your bills
Won't buy you a home in Beverly Hills
Won't fix your life in five easy steps
Ain't the law of the land or the government
But it's all you need
And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I'll be my brother's keeper
So the whole world will know that we're not alone”
We will never make love be the law of the land, but we can walk together to make the daily reality of workers more just. We can show solidarity with our brothers and sisters so no one feels alone in the struggle. And we can work to ensure that everyone has shelter, a place of their own where they live and work with dignity. If you want to bring these issues to your faith community, consider developing a Labor Day weekend service. IWJ has all the resources you'll need to bring issues of worker and wage justice to your faith community.
I add my voice to my friend’s to shout out to everyone involved in worker justice, “Thank you for the work you do. I am glad I know people like you!"
Pam is a seminarian joining Interfaith Worker Justice this summer for clinical pastoral education, she will be reflecting each week on her experiences.