Helping Women Thrive
I remember getting $3.25 an hour for my first job in 1991. I remember thinking those first paychecks were awesome! I was able to pay for gas for the third car in our family that the children were allowed to drive. My paycheck covered the insurance and maintenance of the car. Working two shifts a weekend and one or two during the week, I could afford french fries in the school lunch line. I could buy that new shirt or pair of jeans. I wasn’t paying for rent, three meals a day and utilities.
My first job after college was as a flight attendant with Delta Airlines. Even working full time, living in Boston, I qualified for food stamps. Rents were controlled and prices were set, but it was still expensive. I wasn’t the only person my age who picked up extra trips and a second job to pay the rent. I was lucky—I didn’t have school loans or a car payment to add to my financial worries. My transportation, taxes and health care were covered by my salary.
I have moved up from my minimum wage income and my first-job paychecks. While real incomes for the top 1 percent have grown 185 percent over the past 35 years, incomes for the rest of the population have increased an average of only 13 percent.
We “celebrated” Equal Pay Day on April 10 in 2018, the day on which a white woman’s pay finally equals what a man’s was at the end of 2017. According to National Women’s Law Center, Equal Pay Day for black women is not until Aug. 7. Native women can “celebrate” on Sept. 27, and Latina women must wait until Nov. 1. Mothers will make equal pay as fathers on May 30. I found an online tool that shows how much my male counterparts are paid compared to women in fundraising: a 19 percent difference just based on my age and education.
United Methodist Women is taking action not just for a minimum wage but a living wage. A minimum wage gets you only half of the most basic needs for a person to thrive. A living wage allows for housing, food, transportation, health care, child care, taxes and “extras” like clothing and personal care items.
Many of us have moved up from a minimum wage job or two. That is not the reality for everyone. As women of faith, who put faith, hope and love into action, this is action we can all get behind. The state and the local levels of government are where we can affect change, in our home communities. Start with a program at your local unit and utilize a living wage calculator for your county at livingwage.mit.edu to begin to see the difference in wages. Learn which groups in your county and state are working to advance a living wage for all and ask to work with them. We do not have to work alone—there are allies.
We believe that every person has the right to a living wage. We are supported by our United Methodist Social Principles and the Purpose of the United Methodist Women. We are a community, and therefore we must lift up every woman and help her succeed. A community thrives when women thrive.
James 2:17 (NIV) says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” United Methodist Women, let’s get to work!