Pope Leo XIII wrote:
Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice. In these and similar questions, however – such as, for example, the hours of labor in different trades, the sanitary precautions to be observed in factories and workshops, etc. – in order to supersede undue interference on the part of the State, especially as circumstances, times, and localities differ so widely, it is advisable that recourse be had to societies or boards such as We shall mention presently, or to some other mode of safeguarding the interests of the wage-earners; the State being appealed to, should circumstances require, for its sanction and protection.
If a workman’s wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income. Nature itself would urge him to this. We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.
Sarina Santos, 30, of Frankford was supported by about 50 members of POWER – Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild. Participants gathered after the noon mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and marched to Dilworth Park for a vigil, where prayers and speeches on a fair living wage were delivered.
Santos, who appeared with her four children ages 6, 9, 10 and 14, spoke tearfully about how she was terminated on May 5 by airport subcontractor PrimeFlight for supposedly having too many absences – though she says she was allowed no sick days. The true reason she was fired, she said, is for speaking out with POWER on multiple occasions – including a recent panel in early May, where she discussed with Catholic leaders her economic hardships from working for $7.25 per hour.
“We are mothers and fathers,” Santos said of herself and other low-wage workers. “We just want to live a decent life. I don’t know how I get through it, but my faith has a lot to do with it.”
The prayer vigil, organized largely by POWER lay leader Mary Laver of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Germantown, saw appearances from Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Maria Quinones Sanchez.
Religious leaders of various congregations included Father Sy Peterka of St. Vincent de Paul, Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Tikkun Olam Chavurah, Imam Ali Hazziq Hassan of Masjidullah, Father Bruce Lewandowski, of the Archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics,and the Rev. Gregory Holston of New Vision United Methodist Church, the co-chair of POWER’s economic dignity task force.
Those gathered expressed frustration that the living wage referendum passed by Philadelphia voters in May 2014, which calls for minimum wage workers to make $12 an hour, has still not been implemented by subcontractors like PrimeFlight.
If we claim to be prolife and oppose a living wage, we are not serious. To repeat: A living wage fulfills four criteria:
1. Families in general seem to be living at a standard of decency appropriate to their society;
2. They do so without working undue hours;
3. They do so without wives being forced to work outside the home or children forced to work inappropriate hours or under inappropriate conditions (if they choose to do so, that’s another story);
4. They do so without undue reliance on government support or consumer credit.
This is traditional Catholicism.