The Jesuit Conference works for economic justice in the United States by focusing on workers’ rights, funding for government anti-poverty programs, and the intersection between poverty and other social injustices such as racism. The Advocacy Office supports the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other faith-based and secular organizations in their efforts to shine a light on these concerns. Our office works with the U.S. government and people of faith to ensure that all Americans can live in dignity.
Poverty in America
In 2015, over 43 million, or 13.5% of Americans lived in poverty. While the recovery from the “Great Recession,” is fully underway, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society have not shared these benefits. Since 1968, the real value of the federal minimum wage has declined in value to the point that a minimum wage earner makes $15,080 annually, a full $5,340 below the federal poverty line for a family of three Employers are only required to pay “tipped workers” $2.13 per hour. Tipped workers have not had a raise in over twenty-five years and are twice as likely to live in poverty and need programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as compared to other workers. This reality stands in contrast to the Catholic Church’s demand that “all people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just benefits and wages, to decent working conditions, as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.”
Protecting Government Programs that Serve the Poor and Vulnerable
Many proposals put forth by Congress seek to cut critical government programs which serve low-income families, prisoners, at-risk youth, the unemployed and the vulnerable. In the face of historic deficits, our nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political, and moral. As people of faith, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the poorest and most vulnerable people fare. Thus, along with the Catholic Bishops Conference and faith-based groups across the country, the Jesuit Conference has prioritized advocacy initiatives which seek to protect funding for critical government programs that serve low-income and vulnerable people. We actively support legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, extend the Earned Income Tax Credit, expand hunger relief programs, and create an economy in which people do not serve money, but money serves people.