Some small good news for American low-wage workers: Walmart is increasing its wages at the low end. By April, no Walmart employee will make less than $9 an hour; a year from now it’ll be $10. The retailer is also moving to improve its scheduling practices, a source of worker complaints.
Walmart’s decision is a voluntary one, made for business reasons.
This year at Vacation Bible School I told the story of Jairus’s daughter. My plan was to have one child pretend to “sleep” and then be raised up by Jesus. But it turned out that all the children wanted a chance to be Jairus’ daughter. So around I went, taking the hands of “sleeping” children and touching their foreheads and saying something like, “Get up! Jesus makes you well.”
As I went around raising these children and sending them off to craft sheep out of marshmallows, I could not help but think of all the children who will not be raised up.
Pope Francis has garnered headlines with his simplicity, as well as with his calls for a “Church for the poor.” The surprise his actions have met reflects, among other things, this: that when it comes to the matter of the haves and have nots, Christians these days tend not to rock the boat.
By the time I was admitted to the maternity ward and lashed to a bed with an IV line, my labor had progressed. With each contraction I felt as though the pain would suffocate me. When the nurse suggested she should call the anesthesiologist, I reluctantly agreed.
I imagine it like this. We put up signs all over the Northeast Kingdom, that region of Vermont in which my neighbors and I continue to enjoy the distinction of being outnumbered by Holstein cows. The signs invite anyone with a chainsaw, and especially those who make a living with one, to come to a Monday sunrise service to have their saws blessed.
Forty years after Harvest of Shame, Edward R. Murrrow’s great documentary on the exploitation of migrant workers, the shame endures. Now overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, the nation’s estimated 1.5 million farmworkers, are the most vulnerable laborers in the U.S.
Imagine being a single parent who works as a nursing assistant at a hospital. You love your job, though your wages are only $9.50 per hour. The hospital gives you health insurance for yourself, but not your two children. Health insurance for your children would cost $200 more per month—which you can’t afford. The worst thing about your job is your schedule.
Next to Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez was the most important Christian social activist in recent American history. His commitment to nonviolence lent moral credibility to his leadership of the farmworkers movement in the 1960s and 1970s.