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Religious Leaders Ask $1/Hour Increase In Minimum Wage In 2000-2001

March 7, 2000, WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Eighteen Jewish, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders of denominations and national religious organizations today released a letter to President Clinton and Members of Congress which calls for two 50-cent increases in the minimum wage beginning this year.

The letter witnesses to their common conviction that poverty in the midst of abundance is unacceptable and that the standard of equality of opportunity rings hollow when minimum wage employees cannot provide an adequate economic base for their families.

The full text of their letter follows.

March 7, 2000

Dear President Clinton and Members of Congress,

We religious leaders urge you, during this session of Congress, to pass legislation that will increase the minimum wage by $1.00 over the next two years. So many of the working poor are in deep pain because of lack of sufficient income to provide for themselves and their families. We believe, as does a high percentage of the American public, that increasing the minimum wage by $1.00 over two years would be one of the most compassionate and effective ways of responding to that pain. We believe that justice and compassion for "the least of these" demands that we act now.

This $1.00 increase would mean an additional $2,000 per year for those working people and their families who are most in need of additional income; full-time workers who are paid the minimum wage. This $1.00 increase would lift a family of two out of poverty. The extra $2,000 per year would buy approximately six months of groceries, or four months of rent; or seventeen months of tuition and fees at a two-year college. Surely in a time of enormous prosperity for so many, in a time when some among us have so much and some so little, we can do no less.

An estimated 18,500,000 workers would benefit from a $1.00 increase in the minimum wage. 10,100,000, about 7 percent of the workforce, would benefit directly from a $1.00 increase. Of this group 69 percent are adults (age twenty and older) and 60 percent are women. Spillover effects of the increase would likely raise the wages of an additional 8,400,000 workers who currently earn up to $7.15 an hour.

We are aware that there are some who believe that increasing the minimum wage will increase unemployment. However, a number of recent studies, including one by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, do not support this belief. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that employment increased and unemployment decreased, since the last increases in the minimum wage took effect in 1996 and 1997. Further, economists at the Economic Policy Institute studied the 1996-1997 minimum wage increases and found overall there was no statistically significant effect on job opportunities. Other studies could be cited.

Please support an increase in the minimum wage by $1.00 over the next two years so that justice may be done and compassion received.

Signatories

The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

The Rt. Rev. McKinley Young
Ecumenical Officer
African Methodist Episcopal Church

The Rev. Dr. Daniel E. Weiss
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches

The Rev. David Beckmann
President
Bread for the World

Rabbi Paul Menitoff
Executive Vice President
Central Conference of American Rabbis

The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Bishop Nathaniel Linsey
Ecumenical Officer
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. Kathleen S. Hurty
Executive Director
Church Women United

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

The Rev. H. George Anderson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

His Grace Bishop Dimitiros of Xanthos
Ecumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Auxiliary Bishop
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Center of Reformed Judaism

The Rev. John H. Thomas
President
United Church of Christ

The Rev. William Boyd Grove
Ecumenical Officer
Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church

The Rev. John Buehrens
President
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Dr. Valora Washington
Executive Director
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

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