Washington, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and U.S. Senator Cory Booker joined with faith leaders today to call on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. The press conference announced the release of a letter, which will be sent to members of Congress to rally legislative support for raising the minimum wage ahead of tomorrow’s Senate vote. More than 350 clergy members signed the letter, along with more than 5,000 people of faith from across the country. During a teleconference, Perez, Booker and the faith leaders voiced their support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, citing both faith values and economic necessity.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said that faith leaders have played a key role in the minimum wage fight, and that he has seen first-hand how the current minimum wage hurts hardworking American families. “The role of faith leaders in this debate is indispensable,” Sec. Perez said. “As I continue to travel the country, the stories I hear frankly break my heart…Progress is about persistence. We’re going to be persistent. Nobody who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.”
“Being a Christian, I know what the call of my faith is, and I’m glad that faith leaders know that this is not just the economically right thing to do, but the moral thing to do,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said. “As a former mayor in a community with a disproportionate amount of poverty, I know that the boost in take-home pay a low-income family would see as a result of a minimum wage increase would be infused into the economy very quickly – giving everyone a boost. Raising the minimum wage can bring transformative change for millions of Americans, especially women and children. When you pay workers more, you see tremendous benefits.
Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, said that the current minimum wage fails to provide for the nearly 10 million people his organization serves each year. “This issue is a moral issue. The principles of Catholic social teaching give us a measure for how our policies impact our society, especially the least among us,” Rev. Snyder said. “It’s time to do something about raising the minimum wage in our country. When we can improve the lives of so many, it is the moral thing to do, and it is the right thing to do.”
“The call to raise the minimum wage is about more than income inequality. It’s a moral issue,” said Rev. Dr. James C. Perkins, Vice President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit. “Here is an opportunity to help families support themselves.”
Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, reaffirmed the commitment of faith leaders to the fight for a just minimum wage. “The faith community is united across the nation in advocating for increasing the minimum wage,” Bobo said. “All faith traditions teach us that we have to care for the least among us.”
The letter calling for an increased minimum wage that was announced during today’s teleconference will be sent to Congress ahead of tomorrow’s vote. The letter and national signers can be found here. The letter with a full list of clergy signers can be found here. The full text of the letter is included below:
Dear Member of Congress,
We represent diverse faith traditions, but we share a common conviction that the dignity of work and the security of the family are non-negotiable moral values. Driven by Scripture’s repeated admonitions against exploiting and oppressing workers, we believe that every job must enable those who work to support a family.
For the minimum wage to be moral and just, it must be a living family wage. A minimum wage that pays a full-time worker $290 a week is unjust in an economy as wealthy as ours.
Far too many of our neighbors and loved ones perform grueling and important jobs but are paid so little that they must turn to charity and government assistance to make ends meet.
After a long shift cleaning buildings, no mother should have to wait in line at a food pantry just to provide for her children. No farm worker who toils all day should lack a roof over his head at night.
History teaches us that in the absence of adequate labor laws many corporations will pay wages that are too paltry to sustain life. Legislation requiring employers to pay a living wage is indispensable to ensuring that no worker will suffer the indignity of poverty.
As faith leaders, we support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation so it won’t be eroded by the rising cost of living. We also support raising the tipped wage to at least 70% of the minimum wage.
Abundant economic research demonstrates that raising the minimum wage does not hurt small businesses or cause layoffs, but in fact stimulates the economy while lifting many out of poverty.
We respect the dignity of our neighbors who toil under the yoke of today’s unjust minimum wage, and we call on our elected leaders to ease their burden by making the minimum wage a family wage.
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Faith in Public Life organized the conference call featuring faith leaders.
One day before the Senate is scheduled to vote on a proposed minimum wage hike, a broad coalition of religious leaders urged Congress to approve the measure in an open letter. Over 350 members of the clergy signed the letter, including members of the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
“We respect the dignity of our neighbors who toil under the yoke of today’s unjust minimum wage, and we call on our elected leaders to ease their burden by making the minimum wage a family wage,” according to the letter.
Interfaith Worker Justice national policy director Rev. Michael Livingston announced the publication of the letter on a Tuesday conference call hosted by his organization and the group Faith in Public Life. Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J., and United States Labor Secretary Thomas Perez were also on the call to thank the proposed wage hike’s supporters in the religious community.
Religious institutions have played a central role in the minimum wage campaign since the first fast food strike in November 2012, when New York faith leaders joined protesting fast food workers on the picket line as they demanded a $15 base wage and the right to unionize. Since then, many of the larger fast food strikes and state or local minimum wage campaigns have benefited from faith-based support. Tuesday’s letter is an attempt to exert clerical pressure on a national scale, in favor of a $10.10 federal wage hike that would lift standards across most of the country.
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John Gehring is the Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life.
When Pope Francis canonizes Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will do more than honor the lives of towering figures that brought unique gifts to the Catholic church and the world. He will also send a powerful message of unity. By simultaneously declaring as saints these two men so often deployed as symbols for competing Catholic camps, Pope Francis is reminding us that the Gospel leaves no room for ideology.
As two Catholics sometimes pigeonholed as liberal and conservative but who love our church in equal measure, we’re grateful for this moment. The Catholic church is diminished by the nasty rhetoric, tribalism and litmus tests that often define the dysfunctional culture of secular politics. We risk becoming a church of MSNBC Catholics and Fox News Catholics who reinforce our own narratives and tune out discomforting ideas.
Catholic Democrats and Catholic Republicans share a common faith that includes clear teachings about the sanctity of life from conception to natural death as well as a preferential option for the poor. As the world watches the Catholic church with new eyes, we must strive for something better than internecine battles and gotcha rhetoric. Pope Francis is challenging us to build “a church of encounter” that goes to the margins where people are hurting and broken. A divided church will not meet that transcendent mission.
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Today, local Tampa faith leaders responded to Rep. Dennis Ross’s (R-FL) comments during a town hall about his support for increasing the minimum wage. Rep. Ross said he opposed making the minimum wage a living wage, saying “economically, it’s not right.”
One in 10 of Rep. Ross’s constituents live at or below the poverty line – including more than 1 in 5 of families with children under the age of 5. Local faith leaders are urging him to support an increase in the minimum wage that honors the dignity of work and strengthens families.
The following quotes from diverse Tampa-area clergy are in response to Rep. Ross’s statement:
Rev. Russell Meyer, Executive Director of the Florida Council of Churches and a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
“As a Christian and a pastor, I’m alarmed to hear Congressman Ross’s response to a full-time worker trying to get by on less than $300 a week. In a country as wealthy as ours, it’s simply un-Christian how low the minimum wage is today.”
Rev. Richard Huggins, pastor at McLeod Memorial Presbyterian Church and constituent of Rep. Ross:
“It is morally bankrupt for Congressman Ross to fight against making the minimum wage a family wage. Someone who makes a six-figure salary paid for by tax dollars has no business making the lives of his working poor constituents even harder. It is a failure of both judgment and conscience.”
Rev. Larry Rankin, a retired member of The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and constituent of Rep. Ross:
“Rep. Ross, stated that the minimum wage is ‘not right.’ What’s not right is that today’s minimum wage doesn’t sustain a family. Scripture tells us: ‘You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers…You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them.’”
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New guide helps university students bring the Catholic social tradition to political debates over minimum wages, inequality and role of government
As Pope Francis denounces “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” Faith in Public Life is releasing a new guidebook and website that will help Catholic university students make the connection between the Church’s social tradition and current political debates over minimum wages, taxes, inequality, unions and the role of government.
In this Together: Catholic Teaching and a Moral Economy, a guide that references Church teaching on labor, workers’ rights and a broad array of economic justice issues, will be distributed to more than 100 Catholic university campuses over the next year. It challenges the recent surge of libertarian, anti-government ideology as incompatible with a Catholic vision of the common good.
The guide includes facts about poverty and inequality with quotes and resources from Pope Francis, Catholic bishops, prominent Catholic theologians and the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. An accompanying web site, www.InThisTogether.org, provides more in-depth analysis and videos of prominent Catholics talking about the Church’s economic justice teachings on popular programs such as The Colbert Report.
The effort is endorsed by NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; The Conference of Mercy Higher Education; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice; the Franciscan Action Network; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; and the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach.
“Catholics have a centuries-old tradition that offers a powerful antidote to the anti-government ideology and free-market fundamentalism that distort our political debates,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “Catholics should know that efforts to oppose living wages, attack unions and slash food aid to struggling families are an affront to Catholic values. This guide can help provoke reflection and encourage students to put their faith into action.”
In This Together has already been distributed to administrators, campus ministers, theologians and social justice directors at the University of San Diego, Creighton University, John Carroll University, the University of Dayton, Santa Clara University and Villanova University. Catholic students at Yale University, Stanford University and Michigan State University have also received the guide.
“I’m grateful for this important effort to stimulate more awareness of the Church’s economic justice teachings at a time when young Catholics are struggling to find their way through a culture that puts individualism and materialism before the common good,” said Moya K. Dittmeier, Executive Director of The Conference for Mercy Higher Education. “I hope this project will encourage Catholic students and others to become citizen-advocates who put our Catholic social tradition into practice by standing in solidarity with those on the margins, especially women and children.”
“Catholics can’t remain passive spectators when workers’ rights are under attack and inequality is soaring,” said Joseph J. Fahey, Chair of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice and a Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. “Catholics have always been at the forefront of struggles for economic justice. A new generation of Catholics must now take the lead in fighting for a moral economy.”
“This timely resource will help our university’s ongoing efforts to encourage students to engage with current moral and political debates by using the wisdom of Catholic social teaching as a foundation,” said Carmen M. Vazquez, Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of San Diego. “As Catholics, we have a responsibility to be faithful citizens who bring our commitment to human dignity and a preferential option for the poor to the public square.”
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