Category Archives: Labor Justice

REGIONAL EVENT: Women of faith call for raising the minimum wage

Tom Cordaroby Tom Cordaro
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

On March 6th, prior to International Women’s Day, seven women religious leaders from Chicago and the Western Suburbs gathering in Naperville, Illinois to call for an increase in the minimum wage.  The event was held in conjunction with press events around the country organized by Interfaith Worker Justice – a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the U.S. since 1996.

Moderating the event was Sr. Karen Nykiel, OSB, a member of Pax Christi Illinois, a chapter of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. Sr, Karen set the context of the event stating, “We are focusing on women at this event because more than 64%– almost two-thirds — of minimum wage workers are women.”

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She went on to explain why this event was being held in a wealthy suburban city like Naperville, “Raising the minimum wage is not only an issue of importance in poor urban or rural communities in our nation. It is an important issue in communities like Naperville. Census figures show that poverty is growing at a faster rate in the suburbs then it is in urban areas. “

The first speaker, Rev. Elizabeth Bowes from the Glen Ellyn First United Methodist Church, began with a short history of the struggle to create the minimum wage in 1938 and how religious leaders from all faiths were united in that struggle. What these faith leaders had in common was that “they valued human dignity and thus desired to create a labor system that valued workers and treated them with fairness and respect.”

To illustrate how much value the minimum wage has lost over the years Rev. Bowes stated, “In 1968 when the minimum wages was $1.60/ hour you and your family of four could purchase an entire fast-food meal for one hour of work. Today at $7.25/hour – one hour of work can only buy one person a burrito at Chipotle or three cups of coffee from Starbuck’s.”

The next speaker was Sr. Kathleen Desautels, SP, from the 8th Day Center for Justice located in Chicago. The foundress of Kathleen’s community, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, had a strong commitment to raising the status of women in America. As Mother Guerin once stated, “Women in this country are only ¼ of the family. I hope, through the influence of religion and education that she will eventually become ½ – the better half.” Kathleen pointed out that “nearly 175 years latter women still only earn 77% of what men earn for same work.”

As important it is to raise the minimum wage, Sr. Kathleen reminded everyone, “The minimum wage is only a start, what we need is living wage. That is why the 8th Day Center for Justice has been involved in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Chicago to $15/hour. Do we need an increase in the minimum wage? Absolutely! But let’s not stop there. Let’s continue the struggle for a living wage for every worker. ”

Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, pastor of the Du Page Unitarian Universalist Church spoke about her own experience with helping those who work minimum wage jobs. “The church tries to help, but the needs far outweigh the resources available. We should not treat human beings this way. This is not in line with America’s concept of fairness.”

Drawing from her own personal story Rev. Belcher stated, “After World War II my family survived on benefits from the GI Bill my father received. These benefits allowed my family to enter the middle class and gave us the opportunity to get a college education. Everyone deserves the same kind of opportunity to succeed.”

Sr. Mary Kay Flanagan, OSF, also of 8th Day Center, made the connection between raising the minimum wage and the works of mercy, “To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to care for the sick and to bury the dead; all of these needs are the consequence of the lack of economic security in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Providing people with a living wage is a way to fulfill the works of mercy.”

The Rev. Lisa Telomen, from Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville also made the link between the struggle for raising the minimum wage and her Christian faith, “Looking at the life and teachings of Jesus it is clear that insuring that every person has enough to eat, that they have adequate shelter and clothing and that they have access to affordable health care is part of what it means to be a disciple.”

Sr. Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF from 8th Day Center spoke about volunteering at a homeless shelter for women, “I was shocked to learn that part of my responsibilities was to wake some women up earlier so they could get ready for work. Their minimum wage jobs did not enable them to afford rent at any level. For most apartments you need first and last month’s rent as well as the regular rent payment. Let’s not forget utilities, food and clothes.”

Sister Dorothy also spoke about the grotesque salaries paid to many CEOs, “There seems to be no outcry from Congress when CEOs get increases in their salaries. There seems to be no concern that the cost of these huge salaries will get passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices or that these huge payouts will make it harder for companies to create more jobs.”

Dorothy took aim at Rep. Paul Ryan’s approach to welfare, “He says his ideas are in line with Catholic Social Teaching; but he is reading a very different version than I read. As Pope Francis stated, ‘While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.’”

The last speaker was Sr. Gwen Farry, BVM, from 8th Day Center. Sister Gwen shared about the different ways members of her community were working to increase the minimum wage in Springfield and in Washington DC. Speaking to the value of raising the minimum wage Gwen stated, “If the Gap can pay $10/hour to its employees why can’t others do the same? Even the Gap understands that raising the minimum wage is good for business. The fabulously wealthy do not create jobs; customers create jobs. The minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of consumers and that spending creates jobs.”

Speaking for everyone on the panel Sister Gwen ended by stating the moral imperative of this struggle, “No one working 40 hours a week should have to live in poverty.”

REGIONAL EVENT: Women call for raise in the minimum wage

Women Clergy, Workers and Community Leaders:
Raising the Minimum Wage Is a Women’s Issue
Celebrating International Women’s Day with a Call for Higher Wages

raise-minimum-wage-180Naperville, IL – On Thursday, March 6, at 1 p.m., a group of women faith and community leaders will come together to amplify the call for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Representing different groups, the women leaders will host a press conference in celebration of International Women’s Day and in honor of all the women who make up about two-thirds of our nation’s minimum wage earners.

Like many minimum wage earners across the country, DuPage county minimum wage workers struggle to pay for basic needs like rent and food, and are often forced to rely on charity and government assistance to make ends meet.

A minimum wage earner would have to work 98 hours per week or more than two full-time jobs to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment. The poverty rate in DuPage County has grown to 6.5 percent in 2009 from 3.6 percent a decade earlier.

An increase in the minimum wage will improve the quality of life and provide access to basic resources to workers in low-wage jobs that are disproportionately filled by women.

WHAT:  Women workers, worker advocates, faith and community leaders host a press conference on the push for an increase in the federal minimum wage.


  • The Rev. Elizabeth Bowes, Glen Ellyn First United Methodist Church
  • Sister Kathleen Desautels, SP, 8th Day Center – Chicago
  • The Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, Du Page Unitarian Universalist Church
  • Sister Mary Kay Flanagan, OSF, 8th Day Center – Chicago
  • The Rev. Lisa Telomen, Grace United Methodist Church
  • Sister Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF, 8th Day Center – Chicago
  • Sister Gwen Farry, BVM, 8th Day Center – Chicago

WHEN: Thursday, March 6th, 1 p.m. CST

WHERE: St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 1450 Green Trails Dr., Naperville, IL

CONTACT: Tom Cordaro, 630-369-0777 /

This event will be streamed live at

LABOR JUSTICE: Ask Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour

From Interfaith Worker Justice and Faith in Public Life

Pax Christi USA has signed onto this letter asking Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. In addition, PCUSA supports raising the tipped wage to at least 70% of the minimum wage.

Click here to read the letter and sign on today.

ON THE LINE: February 2014 edition includes campaign against gun violence, NCR interview, Vow of Nonviolence, and more

Compiled by Johnny Zokovitch

Each month, “On The Line” features news items and announcements from around the nation featuring Pax Christi members, local groups, regions and partners. These are gleaned from articles in local newspapers, websites, magazines, and elsewhere.

PC LONG ISLAND (NY) INITIATES CAMPAIGN AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: (by Sr. Rosalie Carven) After the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, some members of Pax Christi Long Island met to consider how to respond to the prevalence of gun deaths, not only recurring mass shootings but also the 30 gun deaths that happen each day in our nation—homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. The nonviolent ethic of Pax Christi conditioned us to embrace a particular perspective on this tragedy: not to react in the belief that individuals and communities find personal and public security at the end of gun barrel. So a small committee of the Pax Christi Long Island council began a campaign to educate and encourage communities on Long Island to seek sensible gun regulations. The InSight Campaign to End Gun Violence was born… Read more at

PC-LI's December 8 interfaith service at St. Martha’s Parish in Uniondale. It was arranged  to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a lone gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, in which six people died, and the first anniversary of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 children and six staff members. The speaker is Det. Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department. While McDonald was on patrol in New York’s Central Park in 1986, a 15-year-old boy shot him and left him paralyzed. He has since become an eloquent advocate of forgiveness.

Det. Steven McDonald of the NY Police Department, shot in Central Park in 1986 by a 15-year-old boy, speaks on forgiveness at PC-LI’s interfaith service at St. Martha’s Parish in Uniondale. The service commemorated the 20th anniversary of a gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, in which six people died, and the first anniversary of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.

PC SEATTLE MEMBERS TAKE VOW OF NONVIOLENCE WITH ARCHBISHOP: (from Louise McDonald, CSJ) On Friday, January 17, 2014, twelve members of Pax Christi USA from the Seattle area made a Vow of Nonviolence at the 5:30 PM Liturgy at St. James Cathedral. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who presided, welcomed the group to commit themselves to the journey of peacemaking through the nonviolence of Jesus. The group made their vow while holding lighted candles symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World. Pax Christi Central Seattle members had prepared for this step by making a day-long retreat last fall led by Sr. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. Deacon Dennis Duffell stated “it was fitting that we members of Pax Christi were able to profess a Vow of Nonviolence on the weekend honoring the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man of nonviolence.”  Eugene Underwood, the Coordinator of the Pax Christi Pacific Northwest Region remarked that “we were pleased that Archbishop Sartain was able to preside and Fr. Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, to concelebrate. That made the event very meaningful.” And Emily E.B. Meyer, co-coordinator of Pax Christi Central Seattle reflected that “it was a peace-filled evening standing together in the candlelight, strengthening each other for a year of active peacemaking.” Read more at

Members of Pax Christi in Seattle take the Vow of Nonviolence with Archbishop Sartain on MLK Day. (Photo by Maria Laughlin)

Members of Pax Christi in Seattle take the Vow of Nonviolence with Archbishop Sartain on MLK Day. (Photo by Maria Laughlin)

Mary and Nick Eoloff

Mary and Nick Eoloff

PC MINNESOTA MEMBER FEATURED IN NCR FOR HER WORK FOR PEACE: (from National Catholic Reporter) The interview below was conducted by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo for her “Conversations with Sr. Camille” feature on the National Catholic Reporter’s website. This interview is with Mary Eoloff, a long-time member of Pax Christi USA living in St. Paul, MN. Q: Can you recall an event or situation that gave direction to your life? A: I believe three events were life-changing for me. My senior English teacher, Sister Marion, insisted I go to college (a first in my family), and I graduated from the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University). The second event was the Second Vatican Council, which changed me forever. It gave me permission to think for myself. Before the council, I had been a very obedient member of a rules-oriented church. The third event was President Jimmy Carter’s reinstatement of the draft in 1980… Read the entire interview at

PC METRO NEW YORK PARTICIPATES IN PANEL ON THE LEGACY OF MANDELA: (by Rosemarie Pace) I never know what I’m going to hear when I pick up the phone or check messages at Pax Christi Metro New York. This time it was a man named Gordon Tapper from the United Nations asking to have someone from Pax Christi speak at an Interfaith Harmony Forum at the UN on Friday, February 7th. He wanted a representative of Pax Christi to address the Christian perspective on the theme of “Tolerance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation in recognition of Nelson Mandela”. Immediately, I thought this is something someone from the Pax Christi International NGO Team should do. Surely one of them would be more appropriate and articulate than I on the topic and in that setting. At first, one of the members of the NGO Team agreed to take on the challenge, though she admitted she wasn’t comfortable with public speaking and thought I was the more appropriate person to present. I still hesitated until I learned more about the request. Ultimately, I agreed to accept the invitation. I thought it would be a good experience for me and a good opportunity for Pax Christi… Read more at

PCUSA NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING NOTES: (from Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, PCUSA Executive Director, and Sr. Josie Chrosniak, HM, PCUSA National Council Chair) On the weekend of January 23rd-26th, the Pax Christi USA National Council met for its bi-annual gathering at the PCUSA National Office in Washington, D.C. Ten members of the Council, along with the staff, were present. The following includes glimpses of actions taken by the National Council… To read more, go to

Members of the council and staff, with two regional representatives and two members of PCART, at the planning day with Crossroads.

Members of the council and staff, with two regional representatives and two members of PCART, at the planning day with Crossroads.

PAX CHRISTI USA ENDORSES THE CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE: (from Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN) Pax Christi USA has endorsed Campaign Nonviolence that is being circulated through Pace e Bene. This campaign is certainly in keeping with PCUSA’s spirituality of nonviolence and peacemaking along with our other initiatives. The more our organizations can assist in connecting the dots between poverty, militarism, racism and the environment, the better off our world will be. I call your attention to the Pace e Bene website where you will find a wealth of information along with concrete actions to support the Campaign… Read more and consider becoming a promoter with the Campaign:

PC MEMPHIS PARTICIPATES IN DAY OF DISCERNMENT: (from PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Janice Vanderhaar) In order for Pax Christi Memphis to remain relevant and effective in our work for a nonviolent and just world, we engaged in a daylong process entitled “Honoring the Past, Welcoming the Future,” led by Mary Jo Greil, President of the Carson Greil Group and organizational change consultant.  Our purpose was to revitalize our mission and create a path for our future. The day was exhilarating, energizing, spirit-filled and enlightening.

Pax Christi Memphis participates in a day of discernment for their group.

Pax Christi Memphis participates in a day of discernment for their group.

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

February 28-March 2 – PC Metro New York’s Annual Retreat with Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND at the St. Joseph’s Renewal Center in Brentwood, Long Island;

March 1 – PCUSA National Council election nominations due,

March 5 – Ash Wednesday

March 5 – Ash Wednesday leafleting with PC Metro New York from 12-1pm at St. Patrick’s Cathedral;

March 5-15 – Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Now is the Time” tour,

March 9 – PC New Jersey will be cosponsoring an event with author and educator Paul K. Chappell, in Stirling, NJ; email for more info

March 14-16 – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in Santa Barbara, CA,

March 21-24 – Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Theme is “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace” with John Dear,

March 22 – PC Southern California regional assembly, “A Call to Nonviolence: One Year with Pope Francis,” with keynote speaker Ted Smolich, S.J., at Loyola Marymount University,

March 24 – Archbishop Romero assassinated, 1980

March 28-29 – Friends of Sabeel North America Conference in Philadelphia,

March 29 – PC Michigan State Conference, “Christian Nonviolence: The Great Failure, the Only Hope,” with Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy; at Cristo Rey Parish, Lansing, MI,!pcm-2014-annual-conference/c6oh

March 29-30 – PC Florida Annual Retreat, “Nonviolent Resistance” with Jim Douglass, at Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center in Ellenton, FL;

March 31 – Cesar Chavez Birthday

April 5-6 – Pax Christi Texas State Conference, “Christian Peacemaker Teams: Peacemaking in Palestine,” followed on the 6th by the regional dialogue at the Dominican Center for Spirituality in Houston,

April 14-18 – Holy Week Pilgrimage with the Norfolk Catholic Worker and Hampton Roads Pax Christi that will stop at 14 area military bases in the Hampton Roads, VA area, the most militarized place on the planet; contact Steve at for more info

May 3 – Regional Dialogue with Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore,


Dr. Arland Jacobson spoke recently on the topic of “Humiliation as a Source of Conflict” to the Fargo-Moorhead (ND) Pax Christi group and guests. His presentation was based on his article “The Role of Humiliation in International Conflict,” published in the fall issue of the Northern Plains Ethics Journal … Pax Christi USA will be moving to a new location in Washington, D.C. beginning March 1 … PC Indianapolis member Fran Quigley wrote this excellent article on efforts regarding immigration reform in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and other local congregations … PC members in Amarillo (TX) recently hosted “The Soldier and the Refusenik: Two Israelis. Two Choices. One Conclusion”. They highly recommend other PC groups consider hosting this extraordinary presentation …  PC Richmond (VA) hosted a special World Day of Peace Mass on New Year’s Eve which included a special remembrance of Bishop Walter Sullivan … PC El Paso (TX) recently hosted the film “Brother Outsider” on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin … A new e-booklet for small group discussion on Pacem in Terris’ 50th anniversary is available as a free download from the PCUSA website … PC Minnesota member Steve Clemens contributed this article to the Twin Cities Daily Planet on the frac sand trial in which he was a defendant … PC St. Jude (GA) participated in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Justice and Peace Expo earlier this month … Pax Christi Metro New York wrote a moving reflection on Pete Seeger following his death last month … There will be a “gathering of hope” on Feb. 17 in Knoxville for the Transform Now Plowshares. The sentencing phase of their trial is set for Feb. 18 … Pax Christi International’s February 2014 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

LABOR JUSTICE: Walmart joins CIW’s Fair Food program

from Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida


This afternoon, at a ceremony held under a watermelon packing shed on a tomato farm outside of Immokalee (photo above), Walmart and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers signed an historic agreement for the world’s largest retailer to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the widely-acclaimed social responsibility program that is bringing real, measurable change to the men and women who harvest tomatoes for Florida’s $650 million tomato industry.  As part of the agreement, Walmart will work with the CIW to expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida and into “other crops beyond tomatoes in its produce supply chain.”

Alexandra Guáqueta, chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, also attended the signing ceremony “to support the Immokalee workers and the Fair Food Program, which offers such promise for us all,” and conveyed a statement on behalf of the Working Group…

Read more by clicking here.