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Mission Matters - December 2022

Why do White Americans have on average 13 times more wealth than African Americans? There have been government policies since the Civil War that have led to this disparity. Bread for the World has documented some of these policies. Here is their Policy # 6 contributing to the gap.

Minding the Gap: Policy #6 The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

This was enacted to help bolster the economy and get the country out of the Great Depression, but it excluded tip-based jobs and other jobs predominantly held by black workers -including servers, shoe shiners, domestic workers, and Pullman porter-from this first-ever minimum wage legislation. Even though the black unemployment, hunger, and poverty rates were at least twice those of whites during the Great Depression, the

very policies meant to alleviate economic strain were withheld from the black community.

How does exclusion from worker protections and the minimum wage contribute

to the racial hunger, income, and wealth gaps?

Excluding the occupations that employed so many African American workers from workforce protections and the minimum wage further widened racial hunger, income, and wealth disparities - gaps that were already very large because of earlier policies and the Great Depression. Today, women and people of color are still disproportionately concentrated in the 10 lowest-paid occupations in the country, and many of these jobs are still excluded from workplace protections because they are considered tip-based or domestic. Moreover, more than two-thirds of all workers in low-wage jobs are disproportionately women of color-far more than their share of the total U.S. population. People working in tip-based jobs can legally be paid as little as $2.83 an

hour in Pennsylvania. Clearly, this is not nearly enough to support a single person, let alone a family, with a work week of 40 or 50 hours. In fact, even a person paid the standard minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would need to work more than 133 hours a week to earn $50,000—the income level that many researchers believe would support a family of four. This is because numerous studies have found that a family needs an income of at least twice the poverty level to meet its basic needs.

Perhaps needless to say, since African Americans have worked, and still work, disproportionately in jobs that did not benefit from the Fair Labor Standards Act, they are far more likely to face hunger than a “typical” worker. Overall, African American households have a hunger rate twice as high and African American households headed by a single woman have a hunger rate three times as high as the overall hunger rate in the United States.

Mending the Gap: Check out this website to learn about legislation in the United States dealing with

minimum wage issues.


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