Interfaith Worker Justice

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What Awaits the Unemployed

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DHN statement signed on by IWJ:

As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of October increased same to 7.3%. While the total jobless number is 11.3 million, 204,000  jobs were created in October.  Still there remains a startling 4.1  million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 36.1% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.0%, adult women 6.4%, whites 6.3%, blacks 13.1%, Hispanics 9.1%, and Asians 5.2%.

While many struggle to find employment, it bears turning an eye toward what type of employment awaits them in this economy.  As the National Employment Law Project’s recent report grimly illustrates, the vast majority of the few jobs added since the recession are low wage jobs.  In fact, in 2012 low wage jobs grew 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage or high wage jobs.  This disparity highlights a critically important shift in the economy and highlights the need for corrective federal action.  Yet desperately needed action, such as passing the Minimum Wage Act of 2013, stalls thanks to shameful partisan tactics exemplified by the recent government shutdown.   But a novel initiative, immune from the whims of partisan bickering, gives hope for progress.

On September 25th, the Goods Jobs Nation campaign delivered a petition with over 250,000 signatures to President Obama urging him to sign an executive order guaranteeing a living wage for low-wage workers currently working in federal buildings in DC.  Every year the government gives out billions of dollars in federal contracts, grants, and loans to companies that staff the many government buildings in DC.  These workers, paid by tax-payer money, can barely afford basic needs and work without benefits. 

Lucila Ramirez, 55, works as a janitor at Union Station.  She makes only $8.75 an hour and receives no paid vacation or sick days.  This federal contract job did not provide enough money to support her children, so she was forced to seek out additional employment.  She was fortunate enough to obtain a 2nd job at the National Postal Museum whose janitorial company is signatory to a union contract.  The difference is shocking.  Though only across the road, as a janitor at the National Postal Museum she makes $15.60 an hour and has health insurance, paid holidays, vacation, and sick leave.  All federally funded jobs should provide such financial security.

By signing an executive order President Obama, as the ‘Executive in Chief’ of 2 million federally funded low wage workers, would send a clear and unequivocal message regarding the quality of jobs that should await the nation’s unemployed and underemployed.  It would be a small but meaningful step towards addressing the growing inequality.  It is shameful that a nation that can spend trillions on defense, balks at paying a just wage to the workers who service its national monuments and federal buildings.

As we consider the monthly temperature of our nation’s economic health, we call on President Obama to raise the bar for the rest of the nation’s employers.  As scripture tells us, “Execute judgment in the morning; and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed…” Jeremiah 21:12

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

Unemployment and Working Mothers

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of July decreased to 7.4%. While the total jobless number is 11.5 million, 162,000 jobs were created in July.  Still there remains a startling 4.2 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 37% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7%, adult women 6.5%, whites 6.6%, blacks 12.6%, Hispanics 9.4%, and Asians 5.7%.

While unemployment rates for women have decreased in recent years, one subgroup in particular still suffers from high rates of joblessness: single mothers. According to a July 2013 National Women’s Law Center report, “The June 2013 unemployment rate for single mothers (10.7 percent) was lower than their rate in June 2009 (11.7 percent, [when the recession began]), but nearly 1.6 times higher than their rate in December 2007 (6.9 percent).” The long-term unemployed rate for all women was 37.2% in June, and while the statistic is not available for single mothers, one can conclude that if even a percentage of the long-term unemployed are single mothers, they are suffering greatly.

Unemployment is particularly hard for this population because they do not have a second salary to depend on leading many single mothers to deplete their savings just to pay for basics like food and rent. There is the additional challenge of affording child care and transportation while single mothers are participating in a job search.

There are a number of factors working against single mothers, especially low-income mothers. A July 2012 article on the subject of single mothers that appeared in The Atlantic reports, “As Bureau of Labor Statistic Data shows, the percentage of single mothers employed in an average month dropped from 76 percent in 2000 to 68 percent a decade later. A combination of the overall economic slowdown, public sector job cuts, and economy that favors the college-educated helps explain the soaring numbers in America’s increasingly dual-speed economy.”

The shift in the economy has caused a shift in which mothers are working more. A May 12, 2012 Wall Street Journal article reports, “In 2010 for the first time, married mothers were more likely to be employed than single mothers. That trend became more pronounced in 2011. Last year, 63.4% of mothers living alone had a job, compared to 64.6% of married mothers. That was largely because single moms are having a much harder time finding employment. Their unemployment rate was 15% in 2011, compared to 6% for their married counterparts living with a spouse.” On top of this shift, The Atlantic also reports a shift in annual income for single mothers, “According to The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute, single-parent families saw their annual earnings plummet twenty percent between 2007 and 2010, compared to only 5 percent for two-parent families. Economic survival has gotten harder and harder for these families: the number of single-parent families in poverty reached 35.3 percent in 2010, up from 30.9 percent three years earlier.”

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health and the suffering of the unemployed, we remind our elected officials that they must act now to create jobs and strengthen our economy with a special focus on those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship including single mothers. As scripture tells us, “Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.” Proverbs 31

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

American Friends Service Committee

Church of the Brethren

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Unemployment and Veterans

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DHN Statement on Unemployment

July 5, 2013

As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of June remained the same at  7.6%. While the total jobless number is 11.8 million, 195,000 jobs were created in June.  Still there remains a startling 4.3 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 36.7% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7%, adult women 6.8%, whites 6.6%, blacks 13.7%, Hispanics 9.1%, and Asians 5%.

According to a March 2013 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the unemployment rate for the group referred to as the Gulf War-era II veterans was 9.9%. The unemployment rate for all veterans was 7%. Still, in order to grasp the problems with employment facing recent veterans this group must be broken down further into age groups. Younger veterans are finding it harder to find a job than older veterans. According to a March 2013 article on Time.com, “For new veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate averaged 20.4% in 2012, more than five percentage points higher than the average among non-veterans aged 18-24.” This is not to say that older age groups of veterans are not also struggling. The Time.com article states, “In 2012, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans between the ages of 45 and 54 was 7.7%, more than a percentage point higher than the average among non-veterans between 45 and 54, which was 6.25. No matter how you cut the data, the fact remains that despite the technical, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills a veteran gains in service, today’s generation of veterans is facing unemployment rates higher on average than their civilian peers.”

A June 2012 report, “Employing America’s Veterans: Perspectives from Businesses,” from the Center for New American Security, states that there are a number of reasons companies are not hiring recent veterans. “Nearly 60 percent of the companies mentioned difficulty with skill translation and negative perceptions of veterans as barriers.” The number one reason businesses are not hiring veterans according to this report is they are having difficulty translating military skills to civilian skills. “Many firms commented that veterans do not represent their skills and expertise in ways that are relevant to civilian companies and that civilian companies do not know what kind of military skills to seek out, how to understand military jobs or how to discern the promising and high-performing veteran hires.” In addition, veterans face a number of stereotypes when coming back from military service. Employers have voiced concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), on-going physical injuries, and future deployments. These concerns stop many veterans from advancing further in the hiring process. Disability may also be a barrier to employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that “28% of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service-connected disability in August 2012.”

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health and the suffering of the unemployed, we remind our elected officials that they must act now to create jobs and strengthen our economy with a special focus on those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship including veterans. As scripture tells us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 

American Friends Service Committee

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

GOOD JOBS NATION—IT’S ABOUT TIME

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Lucila Ramirez cleans Union Station in DC.  Twenty-one years now.  Her company, Interstate Cleaning Corporation, contracts with Union Station, which is owned by the US Government.   She makes $8.75 an hour with no benefits.  She and her husband rent out spare bedrooms to strangers to keep a roof over their heads.  

Ana Salvador works at the McDonalds in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  McDonald’s Corporation leases the space from the Smithsonian Institution—federal property.  After ten years on the job she makes less than $10.00 an hour.  She’s a single mother with four children.  Their health care is Medicaid.  They get SNAP benefits—that’s what we call food stamps now.  Home is a shared crowded attic in a dangerous neighborhood.

Wilfredo Reyes Lopez makes $6.50 an hour.  He works as a cook in the Ronald Reagan Building. It’s the largest building in DC. It’s federal property. That’s not even close to enough to cover his basic needs – like food, health care, rent, and transportation.  He’d like to go to a Nationals baseball game, but can’t afford it.

Roxanne Mimms works for a food service contractor at the National Zoo.  She works full time but barely makes minimum wage.  She doesn’t want her two children to grow up on public assistance.  She wishes she could pay her bills on time, afford health care and maybe save some money for the future.  Roxanne was holding one of her daughters as she spoke last week at the launch of the Good Jobs Nation campaign at Union Station a few weeks ago.

Wal-Mart and McDonald's don't employ the largest number of low-wage workers in the United States—we do.  Well, our federal government does, either directly or indirectly.  Low-wage workers at Union Station, the Ronald Reagan building (largest building in DC), the beloved museums housed in the Smithsonian buildings, and the National Zoo, among other federal properties all across our nation, employ about two million workers.  Many of them work for corporations that sign contracts with the federal government to operate concessions in these federal properties.  The terrible news is the wages of these workers are routinely stolen, rarely raised, and do not afford a living wage and decent living standards for the workers.  Some of them make below or just above minimum wage while working more than 50 hours per week. 

We all cheered when the President proposed raising the minimum wage, "Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth no one who works a full time job should have to live in poverty."  President Obama has the authority to issue an executive order to demonstrably change the conditions under which these workers suffer. Let's ask him to start with workers in government owned buildings as a compelling standard for corporations to follow.  To learn more read an illuminating report "Underwriting Bad Jobs:  How Our Tax Dollars are Funding Low-Wage Work and Fueling Inequality" by DEMOS.  You won't be able to put it down.  

Public Sector Struggles

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of May increased slightly to 7.6%. While the total jobless number is 11.8 million, 175,000 jobs were created in May.  Still there remains a startling 4.4 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 37.3% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.2%, adult women 6.5%, whites 6.7%, blacks 13.5%, Hispanics 9.1%, and Asians 4.3%.

Though economic signs indicate that the U.S. is slowly starting to recover from the most recent recession, the public sector is still struggling tremendously with job loss. Public sector jobs include construction workers, teachers, health professionals, sanitation workers, firefighters, transportation workers, and government employees, among other positions. They are the people who help run and protect almost every aspect of our country’s public business. Still, according to a recent report by the National Women’s Law Center, “For both men and women the public sector was the only major sector which lost jobs between January 2012-January 2013. The sector overall lost 74,000 jobs in the last year, 63,000 of which—over 85 percent—were women’s jobs. Since women make up about 57 percent of public sector employees, the cuts in 2012 represented strikingly disproportionate losses for women.”

Public sector job loss has been particularly troublesome because in a typical recession, public employment is a source of stability and economic strength. But in the past few years, budget cuts at the national, state, and local levels have instead contributed to the downturn and boosted unemployment. Ben Polak, chairman of the Economics Department at Yale University, and Peter Schott, professor of economics at the Yale School of Management, wrote in 2012, “There is something historically different about this recession and its aftermath: in the past local government employment has been almost recession-proof. This time it’s not. Going back as long as the data have been collected (1955), with the one exception of the 1981 recession, local government employment continued to grow almost every month regardless of what the economy threw at it. But since the latest recession began, local government employment has fallen by 3 percent, and is still falling.” They go on to state, “If state and local governments had followed the pattern of the previous two recessions, they would have added 1.4 million to 1.9 million jobs.”

The on-going budget cuts came to a head in recent months when federal budget across-0the- board spending cuts (the sequester) went into effect—harming thousands of public sector workers. Many employees have been furloughed for unseen periods of time, others have lost their jobs all together, and as sequestration continues to drag on, we learn each day of more cuts to jobs and services they provide. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that sequestration will cost the U.S. economy 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone. These job loses cause a ripple effect, harming not just public sector workers but the also the contractors, services, and industries that support them.

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, especially public sector workers. As scripture tells us, “One who withholds what is due to the poor affronts the Creator; one who cares for the needy honors God.”-Proverbs 14:31.

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Immigration Reform Update

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The full Senate will begin deliberation on the immigration reform bill (S744) Monday, June 10.  Excitement about the prospects for its passage is entirely appropriate.  The bill does provide for a road map to citizenship for most of the eleven million undocumented people living in the United State.  It contains provisions that will provide greater protections for workers than presently exist. Our nation badly needs to reform a broken and deformed immigration system that dehumanizes immigrants and rewards unethical business practices that exploit especially undocumented immigrants, puts an unfair burden on taxpayers to subsidize low wages and workers who cannot afford either health care or the basic needs of their families for food and decent shelter. 

Our excitement must be tempered by the length of time it will take many to work their way through the process of eventual citizenship and the quite significant obstacles, procedural and financial, that will make the journey arduous. Passage of the bill in the Senate will require the defeat of a horde of amendments that will come from Senators who simply do not want the bill to pass.   These bad amendments will cluster in four areas:

  • Border security/trigger amendments designed to make the roadmap contingent on meeting impossibly high measurements of “security.” The truth is the border is secure beyond any reasonable standard that currently exists or could be developed in this process.
  • Due process waivers that will be designed to slow down the process or make it impossible to proceed.
  • Taxes and benefits, the requirements that back taxes be paid that are both difficult to quantify and most assuredly high and likely beyond the reach of many undocumented immigrants.  There will also be attempts to bar access to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit to people in the process—even though people receiving them are paying into the system.
  • Asylum and refugee programs; too short an application period will knock out immigrants hard-pressed to meet difficult standards of verification.

In addition to these impediments we can expect efforts to raise the cap on the number of VISAS issued for workers in high-tech areas of employment.  This will threaten the fragile compromise reached by labor and the Chamber of Commerce and put passage of the bill at risk. 

      The only answer to these attempts to weaken and ultimately kill the bill is massive continual community activism in advocating for the passage of a commonsense immigration reform bill.  We must continue to tell our elected officials that a bill must be passed and signed into law.  That bill must guarantee a roadmap to citizenship; it must strengthen worker protections and promote family unity.

            Senators are not hearing enough from people who support passage of the bill while they are flooded with calls from people who want to see the bill fail.  Phone, visit, email your elected representatives to let them know you are watching what they do and that you support commonsense immigration reform and expect them to as well. 

Obstacles for Young Workers

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of April decreased to 7.5%. While the total jobless number is 11.7 million, 165,000 jobs were created in April.  Still there remains a startling 4.4 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 37.4% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.1%, adult women 6.7%, whites 6.7%, blacks 13.2%, Hispanics 9%, and Asians 5.1%.

It used to be that if you worked hard and went to school, upon graduation (be it from high school or college), you could find a job and be well on your way to gainful employment. Yet in recent years, one of the groups most deeply affected by the recession and the trickling recovery is teenage and young adult workers aged 16-24. As it turns out, the struggle for younger workers to find a job started long before the most recent recession. According to the April 2013 Center for American Progress Study, “The High Cost of Youth Unemployment, “Over the past several decades, employment and labor-force participation among Americans ages 16-24 have declined, while the unemployment rate for this group has risen. During that same time period, these employment measures have remained stable or even improved for Americans in the prime working age group of 25-54, indicating that the youth-employment problem cannot be attributed solely to a worsening economy.”

While the worsening economy is not solely to blame, it was the recent recession that dramatically worsened employment opportunities for younger workers. Last month, the Wall Street Journal noted, “When the recession began in December, 2007, 59.2% of the under-25 population was in the labor force, meaning they were either working or looking for work. Today, that figure has fallen to 54.55. That may not sound like a big drop, but it makes a huge difference. If the so-called participation rate had remained unchanged, there would be 1.8 million more young people in the labor force today than there actually are.” This problem still persists through the recovery. Just this month the unemployment rate for 16-19 year-olds is  24.1% and 20-24 year olds is 13.1%.

When you dig down deeper into the sub-populations of young workers, statistics suggest that minority youth and young workers with lower levels of education are experiencing even larger occurrences of unemployment. A March 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics report on America’s youth at 25 found that, “By their 26th birthday, 5 percent of youth who had not received a high school diploma, had never held a job since the time they turned 18. Of all jobs held by high school dropouts since age 18, nearly two-thirds lasted less than a year…Those with more education were more likely to be employed in civilian jobs and less likely to be out of the labor force.” A Center for American Progress study states, “Unemployment is a major problem for young Americans in general, but it’s an even bigger problem for young people of color. While the overall unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.1 percent, the unemployment rate for black teens is 43.1 percent. And fully half of black males ages 16-19 are looking for work but unable to find a job.”

The long-term effects of unemployment and underemployment among young workers are quite striking. The Center for American Progress states that, “A young person who has been unemployed for six months can expect to earn about $22,000 less over the next 10 years that they could have expected to earn had they not experienced a lengthy period of unemployment.” This is on top of the mounting costs for student loans, healthcare, housing, and child care.

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, especially young workers. As scripture tells us, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”Jeremiah 29:11

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Worker Protections and the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

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The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” Senate Confirmation Immigration Reform Bill, S. 774 has generated both great enthusiasm and serious concern since its introduction.   It provides concrete hope for a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million people in the United States who entered the country illegally or were born here of parents who entered illegally.  It offers some positive worker protections for all workers, including low-wage workers at the heart of the concern of Interfaith Worker Justice.  But there are challenges that we need to be aware of in both some of the specific worker protection sections of the bill and in other parts of the bill with standards that pose significant obstacles for workers.

Registered Provisional Immigrant Status: Immigrants will be able to apply for RPI status.  Eligibility requirements include passing criminal and security background checks and establishing continuous physical presence in the United States since before December 31, 2011.  To maintain this status, among other requirements, immigrants cannot be unemployed for more than 60 continuous days.  This could be a very challenging standard to meet for low-wage workers in employment sectors with seasonal work and in the present economic climate of high unemployment and instability.  Maintaining minimum income standards at 100% of the federal poverty level and in some case 125% of that level could also be difficult for workers whose employers manipulate schedules to keep full-time work out of reach.  Employment must also be documented and this too can be challenging for workers with employers who do not provide paychecks and who otherwise do not maintain good records of employment. 

Due Process and Worker Protections: The bill protects the core provisions of the Power Act and extends use of the U Visa to provide immigrant workers protection from workplace abuse.  It expands due process protections for employees to ensure that legal workers are not prevented from working due to errors in the system or because of employer negligence or misconduct.  It grants a stay of deportation during review of a claim against erroneous disqualification from RPI status. Provides for back pay if an employee loses work unfairly due to system or employer error. Provides a stay of termination of employment to give the worker time to correct any errors in the system.  The bill also has provisions that punish labor recruitment abuse.   

E-verify:  Problems with e-verify are well known beginning with the inaccuracy of the databases on basic information.  Even though the implementation will not begin before 3, 4, or 5 years, depending on the number of employees an employer employs, workers will be at the mercy of information that is seriously flawed.  A “Further Action Notice” will be instituted to let workers know if additional information is needed to verify employment as part of the process of attaining Registered Provisional Immigrant status.  Positively, a worker cannot be terminated from employment during the review process. 

W-Visa: The bill creates a new W visa for low-skilled workers.  While the term is reprehensible, the visa could be useful.  An immigrant can apply at an embassy or consulate in his/her home country, bring immediate family, and travel back and fourth between the U.S. and the home country for no more than 180 days.  Workers with this visa can change jobs to other participating employers and eventually petition for permanent legal status under a new merit-based system.  That system also has challenges that weight preference toward higher-skilled workers with advanced degrees.  But there are provisions related to community service, education, and others that improve prospects for lower-wage workers.  The visa is good for 3 years and can be renewed for another three-year period.  All labor protections for U. S. citizens would be available to those possessing a W visa. 

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Challenges for Low Wage Workers

0 Comment(s) | Posted |

As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of March decreased to 7.6%. While the total jobless number is 11.7 million, 89,000 jobs were created in March.  Still there remains a startling 4.6 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 39.6% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 6.9%, adult women 7%, whites 6.7%, blacks 13.3%, Hispanics 9.2%, and Asians 5%.

So much of the rhetoric we hear about creating jobs and bettering our economy is geared at the middle class dream. Yet the ever-increasing gulf between wages in this country steadily grows each year. An April 2012 Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report, “The Future of Work: Trends and challenges for low-wage workers,” finds that, “Female, young, and minority workers are overrepresented in the ranks of low-wage workers, when ‘low-wage’ is defined as below the wage that a full-time, full-year workers would have to earn to live above the federally defined poverty threshold for a family of four. (In 2011, this was $23,005 per year, or $11.06 when adjusted to hourly wages.)”

On March 20th, 2013 the AP and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released a survey finding that low-wage workers feel that they are worse off today than during the recession. Despite the fact that a number of studies report that more and more low-wage jobs are being made available, the survey showed that, “As a workforce sector, those earning $35,000 or less annually are generally pessimistic about their finances and career prospects.”

Since the recession officially ended (June 2009), 65% of the jobs added to the U.S. economy have been low-wage. Yet, these workers are still feeling tremendous strain and are facing difficulty making ends meet. As economist Mark Zandi states, “lower-income households have been hit very hard and have not benefited as much from the recovery. Their real wages are going nowhere. And this is a group that had more debt, fewer assets, is less likely to own a home or stocks and with little capacity to absorb higher gasoline prices.”

Just because new jobs are being created, it does not mean that they are “good jobs”—benefits and wages have been reduced, what was once full-time work might now be part-time. Half of the low-wage workers surveyed by the AP-NORC Center reported that “their financial situation was somewhat or much worse than in 2008.” And the possibility of the job creation slowing down might be on the horizon since, “Just 22 percent of [employers] said their organization’s lower-wage workforce grew over the last four years and only 34 percent expect it to increase in the coming four years.”

Despite the growth, joblessness still remains a problem. According to CLASP, low-wage workers that are laid off face a unique set of challenges. Individual states set their own guidelines to determine whether an unemployed worker qualifies for unemployment benefits, “most requiring UI applicants to earn a minimum amount and work a minimum number of hours in a calendar quarter or year.” These limits bar some part-time and lower-wage workers from qualifying. Perhaps due to persistently high unemployment rates or state-level budgetary crises, states have begun to make significant changes to eligibility for unemployment insurance. CLASP writes, “A recent study by Policy Matters Ohio shows that several states have raised earning requirements to receive UI benefits. Such high monetary eligibility standards make it harder for low-income jobless workers, who already have the hardest time making ends meet, to receive UI benefits.” CLASP goes on to state, “[Low-wage workers] may also be denied benefits for ‘non- monetary’ eligibility reasons that are related to the nature of the work or their personal circumstances. For example, if a worker cannot arrange childcare for variable shifts, she may be forced to quit her job, and therefore be denied UI benefits.”

 As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, especially low-wage workers. As scripture tells us, “If, however, there is a needy person in any of your settlements, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kin. Rather you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient to meet the need.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

 

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Unemployment and Older Workers

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of February decreased to 7.7%. While the total jobless number is 12 million, 236,000 jobs were created in February. Still there remains a startling 4.8 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 40.2% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.1%, adult women 7%, whites 6.8%, blacks 13.8%, Hispanics 9.6%, and Asians 6.1%.


Despite evidence of a steady economic recovery, older workers continue to struggle to find work in this difficult economy. In February, the unemployment rate for people 55 and older was 5.8%. Older workers are an ever increasing population as the Baby Boomer generation ages. This population has stumbled upon a particular set of challenges throughout the most recent recession. According to an April 2012 report by the GAO titled, “Unemployed Older Workers: Many Experience Challenges Regaining Employment and Face Reduced Retirement Security,” long-term unemployment rose at a substantially greater rate for older workers than their younger counterparts. “By 2011, 55 percent of unemployed older workers had been actively seeking a job for more than half a year (27 weeks or more).”

Across age groups we have learned that those that are long-term unemployed have a harder time finding a new job than those recently laid off. This is especially true for older workers. Economists Dean Baker and Kevin Hasset wrote in a May 2012 New York Times op-ed that, “A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months.” They go on to state that a worker who is 62 or older in the same situation has only a 6% chance of reemployment.

Older works have a particularly unique set of barriers to continued employment. For starters, many older jobless workers state that their age alone is a barrier to reemployment. Rampant age discrimination against this population has been reported, which becomes two-fold when they are long-term unemployed. In addition, a 2008 report of the Taskforce on the Aging of the American Workforce found that additional barriers for older workers include limited access to training to update their skills, lack of skills and confidence of some older workers to search for a new job (including inability to use new technology for searches), health problems, disabilities, or physical limitations, and limited opportunity for flexible work arrangements.

Also of concern are the benefits lost when an older worker loses their job, especially health care and retirement savings. A February 3rd, 2013 New York Times article on this subject reported, “A recent study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security lost up to three years from their lifetime expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.” The New York Times article also states, “The share of older people applying for Social Security early spiked during the recession as people sought whatever income they could find. The penalty they will pay is permanent, as retirees who take benefits at age 62 will receive as much as 30 percent less in each month’s check for the rest of their lives than they would if they had waited until full retirement age (66 for those born after 1942).” This population does not have decades to make up for lost wages and decreased earnings. Their situation is likely to become dire as unemployment turns to foreclosure, loss of retirement accounts, and having to make ill-advised medical scarifies.

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including older workers. As scripture tells us, “Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me.” Psalms 71:9.

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society