Monday, August 31, 2015

A Time to Honor Workers

"We must not resign to a 'new normal' with an economy that does not provide stable work at a living wage." These words come from the Labor Day Statement 2015 of  the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

You can read the full statement and find links to additional resources: Catholic Social Teachings on Labor, a Primer on Poverty, a statement on Care for Our Common Home, and Selected Quotes from Pope Francis I at the following link--

Labor Day is a unique opportunity for faith communities to recognize, honor, and celebrate the working women and men in the congregation and in our community. It is also a time to learn about vital issues that impact the lives of working women and men and their families.

You can help by inviting working men and women in your congregation to speak to an adult education class. You can make a commitment to learn about one legislative issue of importance to labor. You can pray with and for working families in our community.

It is a good thing that many members of faith communities volunteer at local food kitchens, donate items of clothing, and reach out in other ways to relieve the stresses that low wages and poverty bring. But in the long term we need an economy that provides stable work at a living wage.

Labor Day is a unique opportunity to listen, to learn, and to take action.

Rev. David P. Hansen
Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas

Friday, August 28, 2015

Preparing for the visit of Pope Francis

Interfaith Voices: the Pope’s Message on Economic Justice

Pope Francis will be making his first Papal visit to the United States in September. The Pope will address the Congress in DC on Thursday, September 24 and address the United Nations on Friday, September 25. He’ll also be joining the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Pope Francis will most likely be speaking on some of the topics from his recently released encyclical, namely: environmental and economic justice.

The Pope’s visit is not only a joyous occasion but it also presents a great opportunity for the IWJ network and those who we work closely with to bring momentum to our work. The Pope’s message on economic justice is really an amplification of the solid drumbeat worker justice advocates have been singing for years. With one of the world’s most prominent and respected faith leaders singing our song, now is a great time to get more voices involved.
Anticpating the Pope’s visit in late September, IWJ will be producing materials and supporting affiliates coordinating events that should build your local work:

-          Labor Day Weekend for Worker Justice: This year’s Labor Day Weekend material will highlight messages from the Pope’s encyclical. The toolkit will include bulletin inserts and other material to help study the Pope’s document.

-          Watch Parties: The Pope will be making his address to Congress on Sept 24. We encourage everyone to gather and listen where they can!

-          Roundtable Events: After the Pope’s visit, it’s important to process his message in our communities and think about how we’ll continue our work in light of what we’ve heard. Roundtable events should include the following:

o   Invited guests: local faith leaders, local bishop (especially those recently appointed), workers, elected officials, members of the press
o   A means of recording. If possible, video record or broadcast your event! Designate a note taker. It’ll be good to have for your own history keeping, as well as the national collection of conversations. IWJ National will be looking for key quotes from events to feature in a follow up piece.
o   An “ask”. Conversations like these are a great opportunity to bring new people and new energy into your local work.

IWJ National will be producing sample Letters to the Editor and a sample agenda for the roundtable event to help make the planning process as easy as possible. If you have questions or suggestions on how to build this even greater, please don’t hesitate to contact Janel at or 773-391-5543

Rev. David Hansen

Saturday, August 1, 2015

American Disabilities Act at 25: Work Until You Die

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July, 26, 1990. Enactment of this law and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. (2009) are changing our cultural landscape.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals in all areas of public life. The ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. (2009) requires that states eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrative setting appropriate. This decision is widely recognized as the landmark civil rights decision for persons with disabilities.

We should recognize and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA and the progress our nation has made in the last twenty-years in the area of guaranteeing the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Progress from the past should give us hope and courage for the struggles that await.

Joe Enstwisle, a senior policy analyst at Health and Disability Advocates, Chicago, who is himself disabled, writes in the TalkPovertyblog (July 31, 2015) that for many people with disabilities the options under the present system are either to: (1) work until you die, or (2) live in abject poverty.

As I understand the situation, for people with disabilities who require long-term care and support Medicaid is their only option. Access to Medicaid comes through Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), which pays $733 a month. Beneficiaries of the program must maintain assets below $2,000. This asset level has not changed in 30 years.

A provision in the law allows people with disabilities who are receiving long-term care and support to earn enough to income to stop receiving SSI benefits and remain eligible for Medicaid. Joe Enstwisle reports in the above article that at the end of 2013 there were 312,000 SSI beneficiaries who were working. But no matter how much they earn, people with disabilities who need long-term support and care remain subject to the SSI asset test of no more than $2,000.

No matter what their income is people with disabilities who receive Medicaid and who need long-term care and support cannot save for the future. They can either work until they die, or live in abject poverty in order to maintain access to the long-term care they need. Joe Enstwisle says that the ADA at 25 is “a half-empty cup.” We can do better.

Rev. David Hansen