Economic Justice - Overview
Economic Justice as a UU Value
The issues UULM-MD cares about are interrelated, with causes deeply rooted in our society’s history and structures of white supremacy, runaway capitalism, and patriarchy.
- Our efforts to reform criminal justice and hold police accountable are directly related to unresolved racial justice issues.
- The economic justice and climate change legislation we support is related to the domination of our economy by corporations and wealthy elites.
- Respect for the rights and dignity of women requires challenging persistent domination by an entrenched patriarchy.
Given the intersectionality of these issues, our work is focused on dismantling oppressive social, economic and legal structures. And events at the national level have made the need for this work even more apparent and urgent. We are called to do this work of building the Beloved Community in our State, to provide a haven for the vulnerable, and to show a successful alternative to the politics of division, callousness and hate.
The capitalist economic system that created a high standard of living and created a large, robust middle class in the mid-20th Century has been manipulated by wealthy elites (often using government tools) to benefit the obscenely rich at the expense of everyone else, reversing many protections given to workers through earlier government and union action. We are working to assure that workers have a living wage, earned sick leave to care for themselves and loved ones, and fair compensation.
From a larger perspective, we can see that business leaders in every state have had great success convincing legislators that the state needs to be “business-friendly," and this has created a bias against legislation aimed at improving the lot of workers, consumers and the public at large. I believe that states that embrace this “business-friendly” attitude are in danger of becoming societies that resemble the company towns of the industrial revolution where the residents are so dependent on a dominant business that they never speak out on their own behalf for fear of job loss and financial ruin.
Our support for specific legislation, therefore, requires working on the larger issue of changing the attitude of lawmakers towards greater recognition of worker rights and needs. After all, the workers actually produce what the capitalist sells and profits from. And as a faith group, our moral voice has a greater impact than that of unions which are seen by many lawmakers as merely self-serving.
Background - Escalating Inequality
- strengthened and expanded equal pay for equal work laws in Maryland to all employers, by ensuring that businesses cannot penalize employees for discussing salaries.
- Prohibited employers from paying disparate wages
- Allowed for greater sunlight on currently existing pay disparities and broadens existing State standards used to determine whether unlawful compensation discrimination exists.
- Specified that the Attorney General can also enforce pay discrimination claims, and
- Prohibited employers from providing less favorable employment opportunities based on gender
In 2017, the General Assembly passed the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 1) which requires an employer with more than 14 employees to have a sick and safe leave policy under which an employee earns at least 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave, at the same rate as the employee normally earns, for every 30 hours an employee works. An employer with 14 or fewer employees, based on the average monthly number of employees during the preceding year, must have a sick and safe leave policy that provides an employee with at least 1 hour of unpaid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill.
In 2018, we supported successful efforts to override the Governor’s veto and fight off delaying legislation, thereby assuring that Maryland workers have a right to earn sick leave.
In 2019, UULM-MD is supporting the "Fight for Fifteen" to further increase the state minimum wage. The legislation will:
- provide a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2023 with increases indexed to the cost of living beginning in 2023,
- allow local governments to provide minimum wages in excess of the proposed state minimum wage,
- remove exceptions for young workers,
- provide increases in the minimum wage for tipped workers to $15 by 2026, and
- provide increased funding for community service providers to accommodate the minimum wage increase.
See the Maryland Fight for $15 coalition at http://ff15maryland.org/.