Loretto Makes Progress on Raising Wages
As a follow up to our Assembly Proposal 7 to raise the wages of our employees, our Community Group 16 decided to take the next step. First, we celebrated the fact that Loretto leadership acted on our Assembly proposal and approved raises in the 2019 budget for $1.50 an hour across the board and a 2 percent raise for those working 1,000 hours per year.
Buoyed by the Loretto commitment to working people, we decided to take this to our local Community Groups (CG) in the spring meetings. Low-wage workers are all around us. They care for aged in their homes, clean homes, provide childcare and work in the fast food industry. In fact, low-wage workers in the service industry are approximately two-thirds of the workforce.
The first question for the spring meeting was, “What commitment will CG members make to connect with low-wage workers and stand with them as they struggle for a living wage?” What we learned was that insight and understanding of this issue varied widely. Our hunch was that members had little opportunity to spend time with low-wage workers or on the opposite side. Members knew what it was like to be an employer and had a rich experience of the topic of wages and payrolls. One frequent comment was a question about geographic differences in the economy. This information is readily available on the Internet by going to the living wage calculator at livingwage.mit.edu.
This living wage calculator estimates the cost of living in your community or region based on typical expenses. The tool helps individuals, communities and employers determine a local wage rate that allows residents to meet minimum standards of living.
There were some concerns voiced at the Assembly and in the Community Groups that it would be harmful to pay wages higher than the going market rate. Our response is that our concern is best placed in supporting living wages. An employer who bases his/her business plan on exploiting workers is not an employer with a respect for the dignity of the staff. Keeping the bar low is not the desired goal. We should not be afraid of setting the bar too high, as we know the business world does not value workers with just wages and benefits.
We asked the question, “Should Loretto make a public statement through a press release about our commitment to living wages?” The comments ranged from “Yes,” “Yes with qualifications” to “No, not yet.” Our local CG 16 reflections suggested no action, sensing discomfort by some members. There was an article about Loretto’s actions around “Mend the Gap” in NETWORK’s Connection Magazine, Third Quarter 2019 “An Economy of Inclusion: Working for Policies that Reflect Our Values.” (https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Connection2019.03.pdf)
Of all of the questions we asked, this one received the strongest consensus: “Should Loretto join the Poor People’s Campaign?” More members supported having Loretto join the Poor People’s Campaign. There were some qualifications about requirements, participation and need for more information. The Poor People’s Campaign does not have individual members. It has a very long list of organizational members. Here is a site for more information: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/. CG 16 joined and contributed $100.