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NCC General Secretary's Statement Asking Minimum Wage Hike

            March 7, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – As hunger increases among low-income working families and more and more children are being brought by their parents to church meal programs and food distribution centers, National Council of Churches General Secretary Dr. Bob Edgar today joined other religious leaders in calling for an increase in the minimum wage by $1 in 2000-2001.

              Work for minimum wage/living wage legislation is among five priorities for ecumenical legislative advocacy work identified in January by an NCC-convened consultation and endorsed by the NCC’s Executive Board last week. 

              “In a nation that honors as a core value the right and responsibility of parents to attend to the welfare of their children,” Dr. Edgar said, “how can we tolerate the conditions that allow heads of households to work full time and still be forced to try to support their families on incomes that are substantially below the poverty level?

              “As providers of a broad variety of services to people in need, we know that hunger is increasing among low-income working families, and that the lack of health care coverage and soaring prices for housing are undermining their well-being.  The people who operate feeding programs in our congregations tell us that more and more children are being brought by their parents to church meal programs and food distribution centers.  We are greatly troubled by the depth and extent of poverty among these vulnerable little ones.

              “With an additional $2,000 of income, many families who now utilize soup kitchens and mass feeding programs would be able to eat most of their meals at home, providing nourishing food for their children in a familiar setting,” Dr. Edgar said.   “Others would be able to move away from inadequate or dangerous housing, thus providing their children with safer places to live, study, and play.”

              The full text of Dr. Edgar’s statement follows.

 By Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

 “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NRSV)

 Even as our nation continues to enjoy unprecedented prosperity and record low unemployment, the religious community is deeply dismayed by the increasing evidence that many people are not participating in this widespread affluence.  As providers of a broad variety of services to people in need, we know that hunger is increasing among low-income working families, and that the lack of health care coverage and soaring prices for housing are undermining their well-being.  The people who operate feeding programs in our congregations tell us that more and more children are being brought by their parents to church meal programs and food distribution centers.  We are greatly troubled by the depth and extent of poverty among these vulnerable little ones.

 Consequently we call on Congress to raise the minimum wage by 50 cents now and 50 cents in one year.  Even this small increase would make a tremendous difference in the ability of low-wage workers to support themselves and their families.  For a household with a full-time, full year worker, an additional $1 an hour would provide $2,000 more each year to meet the needs of the family, a significant improvement for those affected.

 With an additional $2,000 of income, many families who now utilize soup kitchens and mass feeding programs would be able to eat most of their meals at home, providing nourishing food for their children in a familiar setting. Others would be able to move away from inadequate or dangerous housing, thus providing their children with safer places to live, study, and play.

 We know that the great majority of minimum wage workers are adults and that close to half of them are the sole supporters of their families.  In a nation that honors as a core value the right and responsibility of parents to attend to the welfare of their children, how can we tolerate the conditions that allow heads of households to work full time and still be forced to try to support their families on incomes that are substantially below the poverty level?  How can we bear to have the children of working parents be dependent on charity for their clothes and food?

 Our concept of justice holds that no person who works should be impoverished, and that no family which seeks to meet its own needs, however modestly it is able to do so, should live in want.  Thus, we call on Congress to give prompt approval to the legislation now before it which would increase the minimum wage by $1 over two years.

 March 7, 2000

 Contact: NCC News

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