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Working for Dignity

by Alí Bustamante, Ph.D. and Brendan Gottschall, S.J., JustSouth Quarterly Winter 2018

Catholic social thought (CST) gives us two fundamental principles with regards to wages: first, a just wage must provide “a dignified livelihood” for the worker and his/her family1; and, second, government is responsible for protecting the rights of workers.2 The just wage is thus a living wage and governments have an obligation to promote living wages through minimum wage laws and other labor protections.

Despite this moral imperative for employers and obligation on governments, wages in the Gulf South are among the lowest in the country. More than 1 in 5 workers in the region earn wages at or below $10 an hour (see Table 1). In 2016, the median/typical wage of $15 per hour in Mississippi was the lowest in the country. Even the highest median wage in the Gulf South of $16.47 per hour in Texas was well below the national median wage of $17.42 per hour.


Banner Photo: Over a six month period, Sakeenah Shabazz (Emerson Congressional Hunger Fellow at JSRI), Jeanie Donovan (JSRI Economic Policy Specialist), and Colleen Dulle (Loyola University New Orleans senior), traveled around Louisiana and spoke with 47 SNAP recipients and coordinators. SNAP Story Bank Project


An Introduction to Poverty and Measures of Poverty

By Fred Kammer, SJ

Poverty is one of the three focus areas for the work of JSRI. In their 1986 book-length pastoral letter Economic Justice for All the US Bishops reminded us of the importance of confronting poverty in these words: "Dealing with poverty is not a luxury to which our nation can attend when it finds the time and resources. Rather, it is a moral imperative of the highest priority."

But what does it mean to speak of poverty in the United States? Drawing on the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, the bishops explained it this way, “By poverty, we are referring here to the lack of sufficient material resources required for a decent life.”  Then, in the next sentence, they acknowledge the complexity of the question, “We use the government’s definition of poverty, although we recognize its limits.” And a footnote introduces elements of the national debate about what we call “the poverty line.” [Continue on to MORE about measuring poverty and poverty in the Gulf South.]


Shredding the Health Safety Net --Kammer

Shrinking the Safety Net--Donovan 

Hunger in Louisiana: The SNAP Story Bank Project --Shabazz 

2017 Impact of ACA Repeal in Louisiana Fact Sheet 

2016 School Readiness Tax Credit Fact Sheet 

2016 Medicaid Expansion Fact Sheet 

2016 EITC Fact Sheet 

The Suffering South: Anti-Union and Poorer for it-- Kammer 

Katrina and the Least Among Us: A ten year retrospective- Part 1 -- Kammer

Overtaxing the Poor and Blaming Oil in the Gulf South-- Bustamante

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Homelessness, Housing Shortages, Funding Cuts, and Misplaced Priorities-- Kammer

Oil Prices or Tax Structures: What does the price of oil have to do with cuts to higher education and healthcare?-- Bustamante 

Louisiana's $1 Billion Giveaway: giveaways cost the U.S. taxpayers $50 billion a year-- Kammer

Another Misleading Proposal: U.S. House Budget Committee Opportunity Proposal -- Kammer

Refusing To Expand Medicaid: Political Decisions with Deadly Consequences -- Kammer

The KIDS COUNT Gulf South: Children in the region continue not to count much! --Kammer

Raise the Minimum Wage! It's a Matter of Justice-- Kammer

The Affordable Care Act- Who, Why, and What?-- Kammer

The Relentless Assault on America's Hungry-- Kammer 

Labor Day justice: What's the real cost of your cheap, fast food? --Kammer

Where are the Jobs? Continuing Unemployment and Worse-- Kammer

Taxing the Poor: The Regressive Nature of State-Local Tax Systems--Kammer

The Tax Deal... and More Coming Horrors--Kammer

Fiscal Cliff, Fiscal Slope, or the Common Good: The U.S. Debt and Deficit Crisis, Lame Ducks, and a New Responsibility--Kammer

Catholic Social Thought and Global Financial Systems--Kammer

21 Million Americans Kept Out of Poverty: Social Security critical to income of millions--Kammer

Catholic Social Thought and the Common Good--Kammer

Fairy-Tale or Worse? The Ryan-Romney Budget Plan and Catholic Moral Criteria--Kammer

Health Care Reform for Some: Governors play politics with health of low-income citizens -- Kammer

Does Relative Mobility "Cure" Inequality?--Kammer

Catholic Social Thought and Distributive Justice--Kammer

Growing Economic Inequality Matters!: Why People of Faith Should Be Concerned--Kammer

The Common Good and Election 2012: It’s not about my business, my taxes, or my family -- Kammer

The Payday Shark in Your Bank Account -- Mikulich

Catholicism and Capitalism -- Kammer

No Relief in Sight: Persistent High Unemployment for African Americans and Latinos in Gulf South States -- Mikulich

 View all Poverty articles »