Loyola Graduate Student Instructors, Researchers to Vote on Union

Credit: SEIU 74

In recent years, American universities have cut instructional costs by shifting an ever-growing share of teaching duties from costly tenured faculty to part-time adjunct instructors and graduate students with low salaries and few (if any) employment benefits. In response, adjunct faculty at several universities, including Catholic ones, have formed unions. In January 2016 adjuncts at Loyola University Chicago voted by 2-1 to join SEIU 73; they are currently bargaining with the school for a first contract.

Meanwhile, at Columbia University in NYC, graduate teaching and research assistants seeking to join the UAW asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to recognize that they were also university employees with the right to organize. The NLRB ruled in their favor in August 2016, and other graduate assistants around the nation seek to follow suit.

In December graduate research and teaching assistants at Loyola University Chicago requested a union representation election so they could vote on whether to join SEIU 73 as well. The NLRB accepted their petition and will do a mail ballot starting January 24. Votes will be counted February 8. Stay tuned!

Pope Honors Vatican Employees

Francis: As employer, Vatican “must follow the guidelines of the Social Doctrine of the Church”

 

Pope Francis would have a difficult time in his ministry without the labors of an estimated 3,000 lay Vatican employees. The Holy Father invited these workers and their families to the Paul VI audience hall in late December to thank them for their work and to exchange Christmas greetings. His remarks merit quoting at length.

Today we wish to thank God first of all for the gift of work. Work is extremely important, both for the actual person who works and for his or her family. As we give thanks, let us pray for the people and the families, in Italy and throughout the world, who have no work, or else, often, who do work that is undignified, poorly paid, or harmful to health…. We must always thank God for work. And we must be committed, each one with his or her own responsibility, to ensuring that work is dignified, respectful of the person and of the family, and just. Here in the Vatican we have an extra reason to do so, we have the Gospel, and we must follow the guidelines of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Here in the Vatican I do not want there to be work that is out of line with this: no undeclared work, no subterfuge.

Thus, let us all thank the Lord. However, for my part, today I want to thank you for your work. I thank each of you, each one, for the diligence you put forth each day in doing your work and trying to do it well, even when perhaps you don’t feel very well, or there are family concerns…. A good thing about the Vatican is that, being a very small entity, it is possible to perceive it as a whole, with the various tasks that form the whole, and each one is important. The various work sectors are close and connected, we know everyone somewhat; and we feel the satisfaction of seeing a certain order, that things function, with all the limitations, of course, we can and must always improve, but it is good to hear that every sector does its part and the whole functions well for the benefit of all. Here, this is easier, because we are a small entity, but this takes nothing away from the effort and personal merit; and for this I feel moved to thank you.

Vatican lay employees are represented by a trade union, the Associazione Dipendenti Laici Vaticani (ADLV). The Holy Father’s entire speech can be found on the Vatican website.

Income Chart

The Working Catholic
by Bill Droel and John Erb

In a series for this blog we say that the majority of U. S. families are economically stressed. Some worry about income and expenses now and then during the year; some worry every week. The chart in this installment of our essay is an imperfect attempt to make a point about income in our society.

The Wealthy, the Top 5%

This entire top 5% category could be conflated. But we divide it into three sections to note the stratification among the wealthy. The top-top people are far above anyone else.

Percentage of Families = Top 1/10% of Families.

Income = Over $2million annually. This top 1/10% is stratified; that is, the top-top ultra-wealthy are deriving an income even greater than the super-wealthy.

Description = These families are winner-take-all types in sports, business, communications and the like. This type of family lives in luxury. Their excess goes to investments thereby adding to their wealth. (This essay does not focus specifically on the unprecedented wealth gap.) Private equity executives are on average getting $211million salary per year. Major bank executives average $22million. A well-known TV newsperson now gets $20million. The University of Michigan football coach gets $9million.

******

Percentage of Families = Next 9/10%.

Income = Average of $1,150,000 each year. Of course, there is a significant geography variable. The income of families in this category is higher in the suburbs around New York City than it is for Alabama or Mississippi families in the same category.

Description = These are top professionals. They have significant surplus after their expenses. Most of the surplus is invested. This category is distinguished from the top 1/10% only because the annual increase in their income is at a smaller rate than the runaway super-wealthy.

******

Percentage of Families = This category of lower rich makes for about 4% of all families.

Income = From $300,000 to $1million, again with a geographic variable.

Description = These are executives who, for example, manage a state-wide chain of drug stores or retail stores; some surgeons are in this category as are some sports agents; it also includes some commercial bankers, college presidents, a lawyer in acquisitions and mergers and the like. Workers in this category routinely clock 60 or more hours per week.

The Traditional Middle-Class

Percentage of Families = About 15% of all families are in the upper middle class. These families, as with those in the categories above, have a degree of security.

Income =$111,000 to $250,000.

Description = These are pharmacists, college administrators, some college teachers, some doctors, some real estate developers, some local bank executives. These families are susceptible to drop-offs in income, but they recover. These families have retirement savings.

******

Percentage of Families = About 20% are in the standard middle class. This is where the economic stress line begins. These families are employed, but still experience periodic income shortfall.

Income = $86,000 to $110,000 with some overlap with upper middle class.

Description = These are teachers, social workers, some information technology workers, some health service managers. This category also includes some municipal workers in a union and some contractors. These families have some savings and can be homeowners. However, an illness, a divorce or a downturn in the local economy poses a setback.

******

Percentage of Families = About 10% are lower middle class. Somewhat regular economic worry sets in below $85,000.

Income = $57,000 to $85,000. Our nation’s median income is currently $56,000, which is at the bottom of this category. Half of all families are either wealthy or middle class; the other half earns less than a middle class income.

Description = These are families with a job, though not a secure one. They are retail floor managers, computer technicians, cable installers, some teachers, some registered nurses, government office workers, some service workers. Some of those in this category might hold a college degree; others have taken college courses but not completed a degree program.

The Working Class
This section (in two categories) includes about 50% of all families.

Percentage of Families = About 20% of all families are in the upper working class.

Income = About $34,000 to $56,000 with fluxion year-to-year. Our nation’s median income ($56,000) comes at the top of this category.

Description = These are people in the service industry, in retail, in fast food; also in sales, data entry, licensed practical nurses and more. They are prone to unemployment episodes.
These families have no discretionary income. In a given month they often spend more than they make. The difference between earnings and spending is offset with government programs, tax credits and mostly with debt—first credit card debt, and as necessary with payday loans. A $400 emergency (a car repair or medical situation) can mean a payday loan and the downward spiral that the loan’s high interest causes.
******
Percentage of Families = About 30% of families are in this category of working poor.

Income = Less than $33,000, including subsidies.

Description = Included in this category are parents who work in restaurants, are seasonally employed gardeners, or who sell scrap metal and repair cars for neighbors, are home health aides and the like. Plus those who work “here and there,” but are regularly experience unemployment.

Family Stability, Part III

The Working Catholic by Bill Droel and John Erb

In this and previous installments on this blog site we attempt to put a small frame around the expansive topic of family stability. We now come to a controversial juncture.

The Lifestyle Variable

Income parallels family stability. Family stability parallels lifestyles–some lifestyles are conducive to family stability, others less so. It is important, however, to repeat that the relationship among these three factors (money, lifestyle and stability) plus other factors is not an easy cause-and-effect. That is, we cannot say that because there is a strong association between a specific lifestyle and stability, a change in lifestyle automatically causes more stability or less stability.
Further, we recognize that people do not wake up each morning and choose a lifestyle. It is like one’s spirituality. Despite what the self-help gurus imply, one’s spirituality is to a significant degree conditioned by one’s heritage, by the surrounding culture and by many experiences. A lifestyle too is in part an imitation or rejection of one’s parental example, an imitation or rejection of one’s cultural environment and a continuation of or break with one’s many experiences.
And finally—because this is controversial—this essay does not measure love; as if anyone can do so. All types of families cherish their members and love their children. Just as all types and income levels of families are capable of callousness; a parent in any income bracket can be distant from his or her children.

Family living arrangements or lifestyles can include a two-parent married family, two-parent non-married family, one-parent family with one partner for that parent, one-parent family with multiple partners for the parent and more. Upper economic class families, for the most part, are of the two-parent married type and, as this essay shows, those families are relatively stable over the years. The median income for one of these married-couple families, presuming each parent is employed at least part-time, is $104,000. Many families in the lower economic categories are likely to be two-parent non-married families or one-parent families. These families have greater degree and duration of instability.

Interestingly, the education gap is a mirror image of this family stability index. In excess of 90% of college graduates use the institution of marriage and those families tend to be relatively stable. Those who lack a degree do not always marry. These families have higher instability.
The non-married type of lifestyle has been increasing. In fact, last year the majority of living arrangements in the United States were between unmarried couples. Interestingly too, there is no longer a race gap when it comes to marriage. That is, white families now have a percentage of non-married or single heads of the household that approximates the percentage among black families.
And as our chart to follow will show, a clear majority of Americans are economically stressed.

A Political Variable; Maybe Not

Pundits incessantly speak and write about a polarized citizenry. Our chart provides strong basis for a proposition that the polarization is not so much driven by political philosophies, as it is by economic insecurity. The number of Americans who are economically stressed continues to grow. Outsider political candidates will continue to appeal to the economically stressed. Yet, so-called Beltway insiders and many pundits dismiss these outsider challengers. That is because they are not really in touch with the financial realities facing a majority of Americans.
To repeat once more: Our chart (in the next installment of this series) shows that economic stress visits the majority of families—almost constantly for some.

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Kentucky Parish Priest: Be Proud to Be Union Where You Worship, Too

Don’t miss this post on the AFL-CIO blog, featuring an interview with  Catholic Labor Network member Fr. Anthony Shonis. Shonis is a longtime union activist who urges union members, “If you belong to a church, a synagogue or a mosque, you should tell the pastor, priest or imam that you are a union member and proud of it,” said Shonis, who is proud of his union roots. He encourages local unions and labor councils in turn to engage local clergy by inviting them to lead prayers…

Shonis says some younger priests might need to be educated about unions. “A lot of priests used to come out of blue-collar union families. But today, most of them come out of professional families and have parents with college degrees.

“They know that the official teaching of the church supports unions and collective bargaining, but they’ve never had a concrete experience with unions. To learn about unions, there is no substitute for being around union members.”

He says welcoming faith leaders to union meetings “lets them see for themselves that union members are honest, decent, hardworking, God-fearing men and women who want a better life for themselves and their families and for all working people.”

Amen!

Raise the Wage: NETWORK, Jesuit Conference Join Wage Justice Activists

Courtesy of Meg Olson, Organizer at NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) held its annual Raise the Wage conference in Washington D.C. this past week. Attendees were a mix of labor leaders—traditional unions and Fight for $15; organizers from worker centers; economists; labor lawyers; staffers from labor rights champions; and advocates from faith-based organizations and the faith community, including NETWORK and the Jesuit Conference.

There was some great news shared at the conference: since Fight for $15 was launched in 2012, low-wage workers have won $61.5 BILLION in annual raises! However, the new administration and the 115th Congress aren’t exactly friendly to labor, and advocates are expecting legislation that could be very harmful to working families, including a national Right to Work law and repealing aspects of the National Labor Relations Act.

One pillar of our Catholic Social Teaching is the dignity of work and workers. From Rerum Novarum to Economic Justice for All to nearly daily reminders from Pope Francis, we hear, “All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.” Now more than ever, Catholics must stand in solidarity with those who are not making a living wage and say “no to an economy of exclusion.”

As people of faith, we have a special place in this new fight for economic justice. It is our Baptismal call to lift up the moral imperative that no one should have to work full-time and raise their children in poverty.

Union rights targeted in NH, MO, KY, IA: How will Catholics Respond?

The next few months promise to be challenging ones for unions, and workers who value their union rights. In New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky, newly elected politicians have promised to go after organized labor by passing so-called “right to work” legislation. Indeed, many observers expect national right-to-work proposals to come up for debate in the US Congress (libertarian-minded Kentucky Senator Rand Paul filed such a bill in the last session). In Iowa and Missouri measures targeting the bargaining rights of public employees are being floated. How will Catholics respond to these initiatives? How should they, given the premises of Catholic social teaching? Read more

Family Stability

The Working Catholic
by Bill Droel and John Erb

In a four-part series on this blog site we examine the factors that determine family stability or instability, which as we previously wrote, are namely income and a few socio-cultural trends. We stress that these factors do not form a neat equation nor does one of the factors necessarily cause another; simply that a few stability factors parallel one another.

The Geography Variable

First, wages and cost of living vary from state-to-state, from region-to-region. New York City is, for example, higher income and higher cost; Mississippi or Alabama is lower income and lower cost. To have a top 1% income in the New York City region requires nearly $1.4million annual (much higher for the top 1/10th%). Meanwhile, an annual income of about $100,000 equals top 1% in parts of Mississippi and Alabama.
Second, higher income families are concentrated within specific metropolitan areas and specific areas of a state. So too, lower income families are concentrated within certain city neighborhoods, certain rural areas or certain state regions. In the mythological Lake Wobegon Chatterbox Café, an unemployed farmhand can sit at a table with the town banker. That is unlikely anywhere else. Higher income people do not share the same space as middle income or lower income people—not even at the football stadium, or the airport, or at church.
Third, some commentators refer to cultural/political geography. They mean our country can be divided (or color-coded) into, on one hand, East Coast and West Coast and, on the other hand, Middle America. This essay, however, is on a different track. Instability and income stress touches the majority of families—blue and red, Coast and Middle.

The Education Variable

Prior to 1980 young adults in our country were adequately educated to meet the needs of the marketplace. That is, a sufficient number had sufficient education in the trades, accounting, secretarial skills, engineering and more. Since 1980 the needs of employers have steadily outpaced educational attainment. Thus, as is often said today, a college degree is a necessity. The word degree is crucial.
With individual exceptions, income strongly parallels a college degree: Those who have a degree also have some family security and a modicum of upward mobility. Those without a degree more likely experience instability and remain stuck at their family’s income level.
There are two related points to make about a college degree and income.
First, those young adults whose parents hold a degree are more likely to attend college than other young adults and they are much more likely to complete college. A young adult whose parents did not complete college is not as likely to enroll in college or once enrolled is more likely to drop out. Mentioning this college degree gap feels un-American because education is thought to be an economic leveler. A young adult who studies and works hard can, the theory says, do better economically than the previous generation. According to the American promise, no one is condemned to their parents’ income level. Unfortunately, this promising theory has not been the reality. Those born between 1960 and 1980 have, on average, a 60% chance of exceeding their parents’ income. Those born after 1980 have, on average, a 50% chance of ever exceeding their parents.
The second related point tells us that not all college degrees are equal. About 8% of those billionaires who hold a U.S. passport also have a Harvard University degree. Other Ivy League schools account for a similar percentage of billionaires. The remaining top 10% in income also hold degrees from Ivy League or major state colleges or in fewer cases from one of the well-known Catholic colleges. On the next step down, that of an aspiring upper-middle class family, the student’s degree comes from a Catholic college or a less prestigious state school; followed by other schools, public and private.
A quick digression about dropping out of college: In a public, four-year college about 60% obtain a degree within six years; about 40% have dropped out. In a private, four-year college the graduation rate is about 65% within six years; about 35% never finish.
A community college can be a start, but the full bachelor’s degree is the factor that parallels a better income. In Illinois, to take one example, only about 21% of community college students complete a program there within three years. Of those who begin at a community college only about 15% go on to a bachelor’s degree within six to eight years.
Why do students drop out? Tuition becomes too expensive; the tension between studies and a job becomes unmanageable; someone in the family is ill; the student or spouse loses a job; a baby is born. As significantly, though not as frequently discussed, is a student’s lack of confidence in study habits like perseverance, curiosity, concentration, resourcefulness, creativity and more. They are unprepared to take apart a textbook, to know what is important in class and what is not so important, to write paragraphs that flow one from the other, to stick with a problem, to manage time knowing when to take overtime on the job and when to concentrate on school. Rather than confidently finding help with their studies, too many students drift away.
To be continued…

Gaps–Part One

by Bill Droel and John Erb

For some time now, we have thought about the meaning of income levels in our society. Our main point in this essay is not so much the preciseness of the numbers, although we consulted several sources. This multi-part essay is one attempt to put lots of discussion into one format.                                                       In our professional settings (a financial advisor’s office and a community college) and in informal conversations, we sense that most of us have only a vague notion of economic realities in our country. Despite comprehensive books about inequality, despite newspaper articles about factory closings or about new business ventures, despite national political campaigns, most of us are fuzzy about how our situation compares with others and about our own prospects for economic stability and about the reliability of our economy’s promise: “Hard work will be rewarded.”
In normal conversations people do not speak too specifically about their income. Even in those situations where personal income is revealed, many people lack an up to date perspective on how their family compares to others. For example, $85,000 per year was once considered a good income, but for most Americans today this amount is often not enough to dispel economic stress.
Does our $85,000 income example include a pension or a retirement account? Probably not, because as each year goes by many more families have no guaranteed pension. That means families who deserve a secure retirement have to dedicate about 15% of earnings toward retirement savings. Social security benefits, under both Democrats and Republicans, have been reduced, and continue to trend in that direction. Thus, an individual’s own savings becomes more important for security in retirement.
In addition to concern about retirement, our $85,000 family is likely stressed these days because of health care insurance. There has been a 25% increase in insurance cost over the last five years for the middle class, even though the insurance mechanisms have supposedly been reformed.
And finally, there is college education for this family. Its cost was not proportionately a big part of a family’s budget even 20 years ago.
So, if a seemingly secure family is budgeting for retirement in a responsible way, has adequate health care insurance and is saving for college, there is not much left over on an $85,000 income.
The Gaps
It is true that the overall U.S. economy has doubled within the past 35 years. It is true that the average income has increased. The income gap, however, is growing. When it comes to income increase, 70% of it now goes to those already in the top 10% of income. More dramatically, the top 1/10% is gaining income far ahead of all others, including the next top 9.9%.
For half of all U.S. families, their share of the growing economy has shrunk significantly. This bottom 50% of families earns 12.5% of the country’s total income. Those in the top 1% in income actually get 20% of the total income in our country.
In addition to an income gap there are parallel social gaps. We stress that there is not an easy cause-effect relationship between these other gaps and the income gap. That is, it is wrong to say that if every family changed their behavior on this-or-that, those families would increase their income. Or that if somehow a family would simply move from here to there, that family would increase its income. It is likewise wrong to say that if only government had this social policy instead of that social policy, families would get with it and they would improve their income.
Nonetheless, some social and cultural gaps strongly parallel the income gap. Specifically, there is general correspondence (though not hard cause-and-effect) between income and one’s geography, one’s cultural setting, one’s educational level and one’s family stability. To be continued…

At PeaceHealth, 1,000 techs say union yes

union-yesMany employees of the Catholic PeaceHealth system in the Northwest already have union representation – and another thousand will before the curtain falls on 2016. Last week a group of 100 health care techs at Longview’s PeaceHealth St. John’s voted to join SEIU Local 49 – and another 900 at PeaceHealth facilities in Vancouver have just completed voting. The latter group voted in favor of joining a union last month by a 3-1 margin, but needed a runoff to decide whether an AFT or SEIU health care affiliate would win the job. The election procedure demonstrated that a union organizing campaign doesn’t have to be a bitter and conflictual affair if all sides bring a charitable perspective. According to the Columbian newspaper, PeaceHealth management was positive about the tone of the campaign:

“We greatly appreciate the respectful manner in which our caregivers considered this issue and one another’s point of view,” said Wade Hunt, PeaceHealth Southwest interim chief executive, in a notice sent to employees after the first vote. “The respectful nature of the discussions leading up to the vote were a credit to our people and to the special culture we have created at PeaceHealth.”