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Minimum Wage

February 17, 2009

Deuteronomy 24.14-15

Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns.  You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don't, they might cry out to the Lord against you, and it would be counted against you as sin.

My co-workers at Christian Development Commission are worried. 

They have raised the minimum wage.  The previous minimum wage of 3500 L. ($184) a month, yes A MONTH, has been raised by almost 60% to $290 a month.  The move by the president was designed to help those workers at the bottom of the economic ladder, the cleaning women, the store clerks, and the security guards.  It is fair and just to raise the minimum wage.  The price of food has skyrocketed.  Fuel to cook food is still extremely expensive.  Even $290 a month is a bottom of the barrel existence that allows families to just barely scrape by.

But, the effects have been devastating.  Small businesses can't afford the new wages and there have been massive lay offs.  This morning at 7 am there were more than 500 people lined up at the door of the Labor Department, workers who had been laid off seeking the official paper from the government stating how much their employees owed them in prestaciones, an unemployment payment.  And, ten thousand (!) are projected to be laid off from the factories in San Pedro Sula.  These are not small businesses, but multinational corporations, those companies making cheap clothing for us back in the US, companies that could afford an increase in wages.  I'm not sure which is more appalling, having 10,000 people laid off, or realizing that 10,000 people were making less than $290 a month. 

So, my co-workers are worried.  They are frightened to go to work next Monday, fearing they, too will receive the "white envelope," the Honduran equivalent of the pink slip.  Christian Development Commission, a non-profit corporation and our partner organization in Tegucigalpa, often struggles to meet payroll, to pay bills, to have enough money to provide the services we want to provide.  How can they treat workers fairly, provide a living wage and still offer the services we have promised to provide?  What is a faithful response to this reality? 

Linda Hanson

Tegucigalpa

Bruce and Linda Hanson are assigned to the Christian Commission on Development (CCD) to serve the Honduran Theological Community (CTH).  Bruce is teaching HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care, while Linda is teaching theological courses.

 



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