What about living wages?
Alicia Quiros | Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The economic crisis is not an uncommon theme of conversation today. Whether it be at family reunions, in class, in the dining hall, anywhere really, we hear of how many people are unemployed, how much we should be worried about our futures, etc, etc, etc. Yet, there is yet another question, another theme that is lacking from most conversations regarding the current economic crisis – does a living wage still apply?
Does the Church stop demanding employers pay a living wage in times of economic crisis? Or more generally, is injustice and social sin acceptable in times of crisis? Pope John XXIII said the following: “We consider it our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life” (Mater et Magistra, par. 71).
It is our duty, as a Catholic university, as one attempting to continue creating a culture of life through dialogue and practice, that we respect the right to life of the worker too, not only the unborn and the elderly, for if we believe in the seamless garment of life, then that means we must be seamless. We pose the question then, what does this mean for Notre Dame? What does Church teaching tell us about the wages we pay our workers? Can we still use the convenient excuse of “economic hardship?” Are our workers paid a living wage? Do we respect the life at all stages?
I think it is a question we must ask the administration: Why do we still not pay a living wage? Why are we not living in accordance with Catholic teaching in this area? Is life not important at all stages?