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'Living Wage Days' events to honor the memory
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream

Washington, D.C., December 28, 2005 – Faith and community groups will be joined by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during "Let Justice Roll Living Wage Days" worship services, rallies and other events being planned for the weekend of his birthday, January 14-16, 2006.

Sponsored by the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, "Living Wage Days" events are being organized to inspire, educate and mobilize congregations and community organizations to support and act for raising the minimum wage at the federal and state levels.

"Dr. King was fully committed to low wage working people and their families. There is no better way to celebrate his birthday than to advocate for a raise in the minimum wage so that, in the words of the prophet Amos, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream," said Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, coordinator of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign.

Senator Kennedy, who will participate in a "Living Wage Days" event at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, January 16 at the historic United First Parish Church Unitarian in Quincy, Mass., has brought to a vote a measure to increase the current federal minimum wage twice this year. Although the Fair Minimum Wage Act was defeated, Senator Kennedy plans to continue pushing his colleagues in Congress to give American workers a raise.

Speaking at a press conference on this issue on Dec. 14, Senator Kennedy urged Congress to raise the minimum wage in the true spirit of Christmas. "In this the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works for a living should have to live in poverty. How can any of us in good conscience enjoy our own high standard of living, when it is built on the backs of underpaid workers? Fair wages are not just good policy – they are a moral obligation," he said standing in the shadow of the Capitol Christmas tree.

In addition to the event in Quincy, Mass. on Jan. 16, numerous similar events are being planned around the country that focus on the plight of low-wage workers and the need to raise the minimum wage, something that was a real concern for Dr. King.

"There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American [worker] whether he is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer," King said more than 35 years ago in his book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community."

Recent data compiled by members of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign shows this lack of social vision continues and is even more tragic.  Today the real value of the minimum wage is more than $3.50 below what it was in 1968. Since the last increase in the minimum wage in 1997, the value has eroded by more than 15 percent. To have the purchasing power it had in 1968, the year that King was assassinated, the minimum wage would have to be $9.09 an hour today, not $5.15.

According to Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, one of the sponsors of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, "A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it. Full-time minimum wage workers earn $10,700 a year, which is about $5,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. This is a moral outrage," said Edgar, who will also participate in the Quincy, Mass. event on Jan. 16.

"In 1967, Dr. King called for 'the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.' This cannot be done without increasing the minimum wage. Unfortunately, the urgency of now was yesterday and we must make raising the minimum wage a priority," he said.

The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, which is comprised of more than 50 faith and community based organizations, is working on the national level as well as in a number of states including Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, West Virginia and Arkansas to support and advocate for minimum wage increases.

Additional information about the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign can be found online at, including the availability of multiple resources for “Living Wage Days” events.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Participants in the Jan. 16 "Living Wage Days" event in Quincy, Mass. will be available to the media for interviews. More detailed information about this event and press availability is forthcoming. Media can contact Leslie Tune at 202-544-2350, or Philip Jenks at 212-870-2252 with questions or to set up interviews.

Contact NCC News:  Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350; Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252.


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