By Fred Kammer, S.J.
The minimum wage debate is hot. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (FMWA) would raise the minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 over three years and then index it to inflation. Why? The minimum wage has declined in value measured against inflation, average U.S. wages, U.S. productivity, and the poverty line. A parent working full-time year-round at minimum wage cannot keep the smallest family (one parent, one child) above the poverty line. 
Opponents claim that the number of minimum wage workers is small (3.7 million), most are young and part-time, and “relatively few of them live below the poverty line.” The argument is misleading. First, FMWA will affect not just current minimum wage workers, but 16.7 million workers earning less than $10.10. Another 11.1 million workers would benefit indirectly from the “ripple effect” of employers adjusting overall pay ladders. Of these 27.8 million, 55 percent are women, 88 percent are at least 20 years old, 54 percent work full-time, 26.5% are parents, and the average worker earns half of his or her family’s total income.  Further, between 1979 and 2011, the “share of low-wage workers (those earning less than $10 per hour in 2011 dollars) aged 25 to 64 grew from 48 percent to 60 percent…” MORE>>
By Fred Kammer, SJ
Poverty is one of the three focus areas for the work of JSRI. In their 1986 book-length pastoral letter Economic Justice for All the US Bishops reminded us of the importance of confronting poverty in these words: "Dealing with poverty is not a luxury to which our nation can attend when it finds the time and resources. Rather, it is a moral imperative of the highest priority."
But what does it mean to speak of poverty in the United States? Drawing on the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, the bishops explained it this way, “By poverty, we are referring here to the lack of sufficient material resources required for a decent life.” Then, in the next sentence, they acknowledge the complexity of the question, “We use the government’s definition of poverty, although we recognize its limits.” And a footnote introduces elements of the national debate about what we call “the poverty line.” [Continue on to MORE about measuring poverty and poverty in the Gulf South.]
The Payday Shark in Your Bank Account -- Mikulich
Catholicism and Capitalism -- Kammer
Banner Image: Brenda Ann Keneally/AmericanPoverty.org