Tag Archives: Economic Justice
Workers protest for a minimum wage increase (signs read "Hard work deserves fair pay"

No Time Like a New Congress to Raise the Wage

Last week, the 114th Congress began its first legislative session, welcoming new and returning members to Capitol Hill. Between the close of the 113th Congress and the opening of the 114th, 20 states and the District of Columbia increased their minimum wage. These 20 state level minimum wage increases directly impact 2.3 million workers and about 900,000 workers would be indirectly impacted.

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MLK, Eisendrath, Heschel

Praying With Our Feet For Economic Justice

When reflecting on his experience marching in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stated that he was “praying with my feet.” This act of transforming words and faith into action for justice and equality is a key underpinning of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Jewish social justice – one of the many reasons why there was such a deep Jewish involvement. One of the core issues that the Reform Movement has in common with Dr. King is our mission to combat economic inequality.

Dr. King believed strongly that everyone should have access to a livable income and he advocated passionately for equal access to jobs and economic opportunity. Although four states voted to increase the minimum wage last November, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is far too low. In 1968 (the year Dr. King was assassinated), the federal minimum wage would be worth over $10/hour in today’s dollars.

The current minimum wage engenders a cycle of income inequality, for it is near enough for anyone to live by: in no states can a minimum wage worker afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40 hour week. Raising the minimum wage would also help improve the economy, by increasing productivity, reducing turnover, saving on recruiting/training costs, reducing absenteeism, and lifting 2 million Americans out of poverty.

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A man experiencing Homelessness holding his dog

Looking Back to Move Forward: What We Can Learn from 2014 on Economic Justice

While we have seen some positive changes in the economy – such as November’s jobs growth pace of 321,000 jobs a month – the Economic Policy Institute estimates that it will take at least two years before the economy looks like how it did before the recession.

A report from the US Conference of Mayors found that in the past year 71 percent of cities surveyed saw an increase in requests for emergency assistance. Additionally, 43 percent of the cities saw an increase in the number of families experiencing homelessness. However, there were not enough resources available to accommodate everyone– 82 percent of the cities surveyed reported that food pantries and emergency kitchens had to cut the amount of food distributed during every visit, and 77 percent said that food assistance providers reduced the number of monthly visits allowed. The majority of cities expect that the number of requests for emergency food assistance will increase in the year ahead. Read more…

Paid sick days

It’s Time for Paid Sick Days in 2015

If you had to choose between going into work to earn your paycheck, or staying home to care for yourself or a loved one, what would you do? What would you risk: your wages, your ability to pay for groceries, rent and utilities – or your health or the health of your child?

This complex network of choices is one too many Americans have to face every day. How do you weight your financial needs and your personal responsibilities? At some juncture, there’s a breaking point or there’s a compromise – but paid sick days legislation is so much more than a compromise, it’s a promise that work-family balance is real and is respected.

Adults without paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults who have paid sick days at work to report going to work with a contagious illness, like the flu or a virus, which also makes them more likely to infect others. Especially now that it is flu season, it is more important now than ever before for us to ensure that individuals are getting the paid sick days that they need.

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Budget documents

A Faithful CRomnibus

At the end of the 113th Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to fund the federal government through the end of September 30, 2015, or to the end of the 2015 fiscal year. The passage of this bill avoided a government shut down by funding the federal government – except for the defense budget, which is appropriated separately – for the next nine months.

As people of faith, we advocate for a just and compassionate federal budget that will promote the dignity of all Americans and will protect the vulnerable. And, in this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams as foreshadowing seven years of prosperity, followed by seven years of famine (Genesis 41:1-32). We must ensure that our federal government will not act in ways that will ultimately lead to or create more poverty in the future.

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sunrise over DC monuments

Interpreting Our Dreams and Addressing the Problems of Our Nation

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Mikeitz, Joseph is brought out of jail in Egypt to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh’s had two dreams: one showing seven fat cows and then seven thin cows; and the other depicted seven healthy ears of corn followed by seven thin ears of corn. Deeply troubled by the dreams, he calls all the wise men in the land in an attempt to interpret the dreams, but finds that only Joseph can help (Genesis 41:23). Read more…

Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

Thinking of Labor Rights During Hanukkah

In this season of giving and shopping surrounding Hanukkah, we need to consider where our gifts are coming from and how the workers who help us make these purchases are treated. We need to keep worker’s rights in mind as we pursue this work and ensure that everyone is treated justly.

Labor movements remain to be a key and integral part of our work in advocating for just workplaces. Unions are organized groups of workers formed to protect and to ultimately further the workers’ rights as well as their interests. As independent employees, workers may face harassment, unsafe working conditions, and poverty-level wages. Through unions, workers can advocate that they are treated fairly in the work place: they can advocate for sufficient paychecks, adequate benefits, safety in the workplace, equal opportunities, and most importantly for respect. Workers have fundamental rights to have fair, safe, and healthy workplace environments, and unions help enable ensure that this is a reality.

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Homeless youth

Helping Those Experiencing Homelessness as the Weather Gets Colder

Last month, Weather.com reported that there was record breaking November Arctic Cold weather, full of cold surges and record-breaking low temperatures. There may be global warming, but that does not mean that cold winters are a relic of the past. And, even as the weather gets cold, there are far too many Americans forced to sleep out on the streets in these conditions.

On any given night there are 250,000 people on the streets and 3.5 million people experience homelessness over the course of a year. The number of homeless students reached an all-time high in 2012 of more than a million, or 2% of the student population. The number of homeless children in the country has reached a record high, amounting to one in thirty children being homeless! This means that 2.5 million children in the United States go to sleep without a home of their own each night, a historic high in the number of homeless children in the U.S. Read more…