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Faith and community leaders urge Congress
to raise minimum wage to $7.25 an hour

Washington, D.C., June 20, 2006 The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, a fast-growing program of more than 70 faith and community groups, is strongly urging members of Congress to value workers and their families by giving them a much needed raise.

This week, Senators can show they care about the nation’s poorest workers by supporting the Kennedy Amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from the current $5.15 an hour.

The Let Justice Roll Campaign's message is clear: a raise to $7.25 an hour is the least we can do now for minimum wage workers who have gone without a raise for nine long years. Tens of thousands of Let Justice Roll supporters are calling and writing their elected officials to urge them to vote for this amendment.

Since the last federal minimum wage increase was passed nearly a decade ago, members of Congress have increased their own salary nine times, including just last week when they agreed to another increase of $3,300 to their annual salaries. While Congress will soon make close to $170,000 a year, hard-working full-time minimum wage workers make just $10,700 annually. This unconscionable gap leaves minimum wage workers about $5,000 below the already inadequate poverty line for a family of three.

"Every day without a minimum wage raise means another day choosing between rent and health care, putting food in the refrigerator or gas in the car," said Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, coordinator of the Let Justice Roll Campaign.

"We've heard Congress talk a lot about values. The minimum wage is a bedrock moral value," said Sherry. "It's immoral that workers who care for children, the ill and the elderly struggle to care for their own families. It's immoral that the minimum wage keeps people in poverty instead of out of poverty. A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it," he said.

Today's minimum wage is lower than the minimum wage of 1950, which would be $6.30 in 2006 dollars. It would take $9.31 today to match the buying power of the minimum wage of 1968.

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, "Surely, Congress can support a raise in the minimum wage to $7.25 as called for in legislation being debated this week, especially since they just voted to give themselves a raise last week."

"Congress wants us to believe it needs a 'cost of living adjustment' of more than $3,000 while minimum wage workers struggle to get by on the same full-time minimum wage salary of $10,712 for the past nine years. It's morally outrageous and reprehensible for Congress to increase their salary and not that of millions of the hard-working American citizens who they are supposed to represent," said Edgar.

Momentum to raise the minimum wage on the state and local level has been steadily increasing for the past several years, as faith and community groups work together to mobilize their grassroots constituencies on this issue. Federal legislation, however, has been stagnant.

In its plea to Congress, members of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign have cited the Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."  Yet they contend that our elected officials have not adhered to this rule.

"Violating the Golden Rule, Congress has already taken eight pay raises since 1997, bringing their pay to $165,200, while giving none to minimum wage workers who make just $10,712 a year. Violating the Golden Rule, Congress is on track for its ninth raise effective January 1, 2007 to $168,500," said Sherry.

A recently released report entitled "A Just Minimum Wage: Good For Workers, Business and Our Future," by Holly Sklar and the Rev. Paul Sherry, counters all the arguments against raising the minimum wage and offers vital new insight into why the minimum wage is so important.

The report shows that raising the minimum wage is an economic imperative for the enduring strength of our workforce, businesses, communities and economy, as well as a moral imperative for the very soul of our nation.

"A Just Minimum Wage" was produced by the American Friends Service Committee and the National Council of Churches USA in support of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign. Copies are available in .pdf format at www.letjusticeroll.org and in hard copy by contacting Leslie Tune at the National Council of Churches USA at (202) 481-6927 or via email at Ltune@ncccusa.org.

The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign works to raise the minimum wage at the federal level and in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and played a leading role in recent state minimum wage increases in Arkansas, Michigan and West Virginia.

Additional information about the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign can be found online at www.letjusticeroll.org
 


Contact: NCC News: Leslie Tune, 202-481-6927

 

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