Washington, D.C. – Faith leaders from across the country joined together today to urge legislators and governors from the 24 states that have refused to expand Medicaid to pass legislation that would bring health care to 5 million Americans. During a teleconference this afternoon, clergy members and health care experts outlined the moral case for Medicaid expansion, and discussed their ongoing campaigns to pressure state lawmakers and educate voters. Audio of the call can be found here.
Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, called the impasse by some state legislators “a situation that defies understanding.” Keehan, who was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, said of the lack of expansion, “It’s so irresponsible and so uncaring for the people that live side by side with us in our communities. To say that we’re not going to do it because of a political agenda, or to prove that a program is a failure is absolutely frustrating, and a failure in the worst way.”
“This is a moral issue. This isn’t a political issue. This is about helping people,” said Rev. Norman Wilson, Senior Pastor of Freedom Hall Church of the Living God in Orlando, and leader with PICO United Florida. “One thing that is clear in the Bible is that Jesus was in the health care business.”
“Expanding Medicaid would reach 300,000 people in Missouri who not only need, but deserve Medicaid,” said Rev. Susan McCann, the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty, Mo. and a leader with Communities Creating Opportunity. “People forget, and this is painfully ironic, that the Missouri state motto is, ‘The welfare of the people should be the supreme law.’”
People in the Medicaid gap “are not numbers, these are our church members and family members. So for us, this is a matter of life and death,” said Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and a leader with the Moral Mondays GA movement. “History has not been kind to governors who stand in front of schoolhouse doors because the children are not the right kind of children, and history will not be kind to governors who stand in front of hospital doors and clinics because people who are trying to get in are deemed politically dispensable.”
The failure to expand Medicaid is “truly an immoral act by the nation’s governors,” said Jonathan Gruber, Professor of Economics at MIT and one of the architects of the ACA and healthcare reform in Massachusetts. “Economics is all about tradeoffs. And with Medicaid there are no tradeoffs. Medicaid makes it possible for citizens to get better, and states are better off.”
Until Medicaid is expanded in all 50 states, faith-based organizations like Moral Mondays and PICO National Network and its affiliates will continue to organize to pressure lawmakers. With the 2014 midterm elections only months away, these groups will continue to work to educate voters on this critical issue and make them aware of politicians who are standing in the way of health care of for millions of Americans.
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Washington, DC – In the lead up to Mother’s Day, prominent women religious leaders are challenging Congress to catch up with other developed nations and pass legislation that will help strengthen families.
“The ‘pro-family’ rhetoric in Washington does not address the shameful reality that the United States lags behind most developed nations when it comes to policies that support women and families,” more than 50 Christian, Jewish and Muslim women write in a letter today to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “It is morally unacceptable that millions of Americans still have no paid sick days, suffer from workplace discrimination because of a pregnancy and are trapped in poverty because the minimum wage is far below a living wage.”
Signatories on the letter include Bishop Mariann E. Budde, Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church; Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners; Nancy Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women and Ani Zonneveld, President, Muslims for Progressive Values.
The faith leaders note that nearly 40 million working Americans don’t have a single paid sick day, and urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 employees or more to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. “Americans who barely get by from paycheck to paycheck should not be forced to make a cruel choice between keeping their jobs and the health of their families,” they write.
Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family medical leave through their employees, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The Family Act, legislation that would create a national family leave and medical program, would, among other things, allow employees to care for a new child, address a serious health issue of not only themselves, but that of a parent or spouse.
“Pregnant women are particularly at risk in an economy that only values efficiency and profit,” the faith leaders write. “Even in 2012, for some women having a baby means losing a job or a promotion.” They urge Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women.
Noting that women are only paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man and that women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage-workers, the leaders urge elected officials to raise the minimum wage and “support legislative efforts that would alleviate these unconscionable inequities.”
The complete letter with signatories can be found below and here.
Dear Speaker Boehner and Sen. Reid,
As families prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, we are mindful of the love and sacrifices that mothers make to strengthen our families and our country. However, we know that expressing our gratitude with flowers and kind words is not enough. The “pro-family” rhetoric in Washington does not address the shameful reality that the United States lags behind most developed nations when it comes to policies that support women and families.
As Christian, Jewish and Muslim women, we are inspired by diverse faith traditions that share a conviction that public policies must serve the dignity of the human person, support the family and promote the common good. It is morally unacceptable that millions of Americans still have no paid leave and sick days, suffer from workplace discrimination because of a pregnancy and are trapped in poverty because the minimum wage is far below a living wage.
Families and workplaces suffer when a mother or other family members can’t take time off to care for themselves, a sick child or an ailing parent. Nearly 40 million working Americans don’t have a single paid sick day. Americans who barely get by from paycheck to paycheck should not be forced to make a cruel choice between keeping their jobs and the health of their families. We urge you to support the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to recover from illness, get preventative care or care for a sick family member.
Pregnant women are particularly at risk in an economy that only values efficiency and profit. Even in 2014, for some women having a baby means losing a job or a promotion. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions, pregnant workers still face unjust treatment in the workplace. This is especially true for pregnant women in low-wage jobs that are disproportionately made up of women of color and immigrants. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and make sure employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women.
Women now make up almost half the workforce, but a gender pay gap means they are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. In addition, women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers. A woman working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $14,500 – more than $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Women also make up 72 percent of tipped workers who have not seen an increase in the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour in more than two decades. We urge you to support legislative efforts that would alleviate these unconscionable inequities and enable women to provide for their families.
It’s time to move from lofty rhetoric about family values to responsible policies that help women and families.
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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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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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