Thursday, April 10, 2014

Workers Need a Raise!

“Justice, justice you shall pursue.”  Deuteronomy 16:20

Last week the Raise the Wage Coalition, a coalition of over 80 policy, labor, advocacy, business, civil rights and faith groups, created a week of action in anticipation of the Senate Vote on Minimum Wage.

The week of action began with “Equality Monday” calling for the advancement of equal opportunity for women and people of color.  “Tipped Tuesday” asked for a wage that will help tipped workers be more secure economically.  “Worker Wednesday” sought to highlight how the $10.10 minimum wage increase will improve the lives of working families.  “Prosperity Thursday” aimed to identify how an increased minimum wage will be instrumental in creating a strong economy that will help small businesses prosper.  "Faith Friday" identified the moral case for raising the minimum wage.

Click here to email your Senators in support of above-poverty wages for low-wage workers. 

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act legislation (S.1737), would increase the national minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, with automatic cost-of-living adjustments thereafter, and set the base rate for tipped workers at 70% of the full minimum wage.

The week of action came during the Lenten Season, and as we are called to witness both by God and our denomination we must name the need to raise the minimum wage.  The current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is a poverty wage. A $10.10 minimum wage will keep a family of 3 out of poverty, it would lift an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty, and it will give low-income workers the opportunity to be economically independent.  Not only will raising the federal minimum wage bring economic security to minimum wage earners working full time, it would also help boost our economy.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage would generate more than $22 billion in new economic activity and contribute 85,000 new jobs to the economy over the phase-in period.  Finally, by some estimates the $10.10 minimum wage increase will help 3.5 million Americans cycle off of SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) and create $4.6 billion in annual savings.[1]  

The minimum wage, which has been losing real value since its peak in 1968, has created a permanent community of working poor persons.  Our Presbyterian 1967 Confession of Faith states, “Because Jesus identified himself with the needy and exploited, the cause of the world’s poor is the cause of his disciples…A church that is indifferent to poverty …offers no acceptable worship to God.”[2]  The 208th General Assembly (1996) asserted the need to “provide incentives for productive employment for the unemployed, including a livable minimum wage.”[3]  In 2006, the 217th General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the PC(USA) to “communicate to all members of Congress its desire that legislation to increase the minimum wage…with the goal of a wage level sufficient to lift full-time workers out of poverty.”[4] 

Click here to see a recent article discussing "What Scripture Tells Us About Minimum Wage" written by Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson & David Beckmann.

Brothers and Sisters, the issue of the minimum wage is still a moral issue.  Let us join with each other, with the larger faith community, and with all those in our community pressuring our Congress to raise the minimum wage.  Let us pursue justice together.

Click here to write to your Senators.

[1] If we #RaiseTheWage, it will help 3.5 million Americans get off foodstamps and create $4.6 billion in annual savings
[2] The Confession of 1967, 9.46
[3] Minutes, 1996, pp. 494-495
[4] Minutes, 2006, pp.894-895