Workers around the country stepped away from their jobs at fast food restaurants and other low-wage sites on Dec. 4 in protests demanding improved wages. They say their wages are too low to support their families and that many as a result rely on government assistance to get by. The typical fast food worker is no longer a teen seeking extra pocket money. Today’s fast-food worker, according to a report by the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley, is typically over 20, often raising a child, and just under 70 percent are the primary wage earners in their families. According to the study, 52 percent of full-time fast food workers qualify for federal assistance at a cost to tax payers of $7 billion a year.
The protestors’ message is timely as income inequality grows and the U.S. middle class staggers. The fast-food workers’ campaign even received an endorsement from President Obama during his address on economic mobility yesterday.
“It’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office,” the president said. “This shouldn’t be an ideological question. It was Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, who once said, ‘They who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.’ And for those of you who don’t speak old-English—let me translate. It means if you work hard, you should make a decent living. If you work hard, you should be able to support a family.” Continue reading Protests Nationwide Seek Living Wage→
Climate change was not a defining issue in Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, but his philosophy contained profound principles and commitments now needed for climate justice.
As we look back on the life of one of the world’s great heroes, many will hopefully use his passing not to speculate on the troubles facing of South Africa nor claim ownership of his legacy, but rather to reflect on Nelson Mandela’s long and courageous life in order to draw inspiration from one of the world’s moral stalwarts who weathered the storms of oppression, racism, injustice and inequality and not only managed to come out of the other side a smiling, compassionate and forgiving leader, but in doing so navigated a path through those storms and created a legacy that will inspire generations of leaders to come. Continue reading What Climate Change Activists Can Learn from Mandela’s Great Legacy→
In an unprecedented video message, Pope Francis has appealed to people around the world to support a new campaign by Caritas Internationals to wipe out global hunger. The campaign is set to begin today, 10 December, with a “wave of prayer to end hunger” which begins at noon in Samoa and will travel around the world.
The full text of Pope Francis’ appeal follows:
Message from Pope Francis for the launch of One Human Family, Food for All
We heard of the death of Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela with great sadness. Nonetheless we cannot help but call to mind the words of Scripture:
“Let us now sing the praises of famous men, great men in their generations….They ruled their governments wisely, were known for their valor. Their counsel displayed wisdom, they saw things from afar.” (Ecclesiastics 44:1-3)
With these words we, the Catholic Church in Southern Africa, express our gratitude to uTata Mandela for the sacrifice he made for all peoples of South Africa and for the leadership and inspiration he gave in leading us on the path of reconciliation. He never compromised on his principles and vision for a democratic and just South Africa where all have equal opportunities, even at great cost to his own freedom. Despite great suffering throughout his life he did not answer racism with racism and his words at the treason trial still inspire: Continue reading May They Meet In Heaven→
The World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) present liberalization as the recipe for developing countries to escape poverty. According to them, foreign direct investment and trade liberalization would bring great benefits to developing countries: jobs, access to international markets and economic growth driven by exports to name but a few. However, such liberalization policies have been bad for family farmers in developing countries and their food sovereignty.
Trade Preferences suit the Agribusiness
Currently, the EU accords preferential treatment to exporters from certain developing countries by allowing them to pay lower duties to enter the EU-market via the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP). Economic operators from the least developed countries (LDCs) get the most favorable treatment under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) agreements. Under the EBA all products (except arms and ammunition) coming from LDCs can be exported duty-free to the EU. However, the developing countries’ exporters are not the only beneficiaries of this preferential treatment; the foreign agribusiness companies operating in that country benefit, too.Both the EU’s trade preferences and its subsidized bio-fuel are extra incentives to the agribusiness to acquire land in developing countries. On top of that, foreign agribusiness can often count on other incentives such as tax sweeteners from host governments, supportive services from investment promotion agencies and investment protection due to Bilateral Investment Treaties. Continue reading Trade & Agribusiness are destroying Family Farming→
1311 UN Security Council gives a push to the Arms Trade Treaty
Small arms and light weapons cause significant suffering and loss of lives around the world and their existence remains a great concern for all those interested in peace and troubled by the enormous suffering caused by these weapons. There are an estimated 875 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide, produced by more than 1,000 companies in nearly 100 countries. Among the top exporters of small arms are the US, Italy, Brazil, China, Germany and Russia. The estimated annual value of the authorized market exceeds $8.5 billion, though due to the secrecy of this market it is difficult to know the real amount. Knowing the statistics for illegal small arms transfers is even more difficult. The illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons and their accumulation and misuse fuel armed conflicts and impacts negatively on human rights, development and socioeconomic issues. Small arms create insecurity for civilians and have a dreadful impact on the ordinary life of women and children, increasing, as they do, the cases of violence perpetrated against them, as in the East of the D.R. Congo. They also favor the recruitment and use of children by different armed groups. Continue reading The World is over-armed and Peace is underfunded→
Lampedusa October 2013: Following a shipwreck, more than 300 people lost their lives on the 3rd and the 11th October and a few days later 50 more people died in the same way off the coast of Lampedusa. In recent years, thousands of people have landed on the shores of Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Spain (including the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla) after taking various routes across the Mediterranean. These people risk their lives in the hope of a better future. Who are these people who chance such a hazardous journey in old boats? Who are these people who risk their lives to reach Europe? What motivates them?
Pope Francis’ homily gives us a guide: “Where is your brother?”. This question is addressed to us all. Who is responsible for this drama? In today’s world most people have lost a sense of responsibility for their neighbor and nobody feels responsible for the large number of refugees landing up on the Mediterranean coast. These refugees are motivated as much by hope as despair. Some have left their countries and their families and homes because of war or political instability, as evidenced by the large number of Syrians and Afghanis arriving in Greece. However, this is not the only reason to migrate, as some have fled for economic reasons or a combination of political and economic reasons. This is evidenced by an increase in refugee flows during political crises, as was the case during the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis. Such crises exacerbate existing socioeconomic hardship, as political instability often destroys the fragile livelihoods of poor people. Continue reading Escaping from Economic Injustice→
The wealth of natural and human resources of Zimbabwe must benefit the poor of the country, not simply its elite, according to the Jesuits in Zimbabwe. Their call for a more just distribution of the country’s resources has been echoed by Zimbabwe Bishops’ Conference in a pastoral letter issued on 3 December, in which they said that three months after the July elections, ‘there are no visible prospects for improvement in the spheres of life in Zimbabwe that cry for restoration to give people hope for a better life.’
Writing in the magazine Jesuits and Friends, Fr Roland von Nidda SJ, parish priest of St Peter’s Kubatana in Zimbabwe, says that Zimbabwe’s wealth of resources includes ‘the best educated people in Africa, the biggest diamond fields in the world and the second largest platinum deposits world-wide. But not much of this wealth trickles down to the mass of the poor’.
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.” – Pope Francis, November 24, 2013
The apostolic exhortation issued by Pope Francis may have been primarily addressed to his Catholic followers. But his sharp comments on the fallacies and immorality of right-wing fundamentalist economics have attracted wide attention, both positive and negative, with selected sound bites being quoted in a multitude of news articles and talk shows.
The full text is long, over 50,000 words on over 200 booklet-size pages. The words on economic justice are only a fraction of that, but they do go beyond the few sentences that have appeared in the media. So I decided to excerpt an AfricaFocus-sized portion, in the belief that AfricaFocus readers would also find them of interest. Continue reading Pope Francis on Economic Justice→