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Roll raising state minimum wages, pushing federal hike
Washington, D.C., July 13, 2006 -- North Carolina and Pennsylvania are the latest states in a growing movement to raise the minimum wage for working Americans. Today, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed into law the bill raising the state minimum wage. Pennsylvania's governor did the same just last Sunday.
"From Arkansas, Michigan and West Virginia to Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Americans have rejected the $5.15 an hour minimum wage as too low," said Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign national coordinator. "A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it," Sherry said.
The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, a fast-growing partnership of more than 70 faith and community groups including the National Council of Churches USA, Interfaith Worker Justice and American Friends Service Committee, said the latest minimum wage victories are two more examples that Americans from all backgrounds want a just minimum wage.
North Carolina's minimum wage will increase to $6.15 in less than six months. North Carolinians making the current minimum wage of $5.15 will see their annual incomes for full-time work increase by a much-needed $2,080 when the $1 an hour raise begins in January 2007.
"The religious voice was particularly strong in the North Carolina campaign to deliver this long overdue raise," said Jason Jenkins, state organizer for the national Let Justice Roll Campaign and program associate for the North Carolina Council of Churches, a leading member of the North Carolinians for Fair Wages coalition.
In May, Jenkins delivered an influential letter to all state legislators signed by 30 top N.C. religious leaders calling on the General Assembly to raise the minimum wage. "We consider it immoral that a minimum wage employee -- making $5.15 an hour and working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year -- earns $10,700 a year...We call upon you to recognize that a minimum wage should be a fair, just, and living wage," they wrote.
Last Sunday (July 9) Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed the state minimum wage raise into law at Sharon Baptist Church in Philadelphia. The church was packed with religious and labor leaders, politicians and workers. Pennsylvania's minimum wage will increase in two steps to $7.15 an hour by July 1, 2007 for employers with more than 10 employees, and in three steps to $7.15 an hour by July 1, 2008 for employers with 10 or fewer full-time employees.
"For our constituents, having a minimum wage that fell far below the federal poverty line for families was simply unjust," said Rev. Sandra Strauss, director of public advocacy for the
Pennsylvania Council of Churches and a Let Justice Roll steering committee member. "While we still have much work to do, increasing the minimum wage is a huge step toward a better life for many Pennsylvanians," she said.
John Dodds, leader of the Pennsylvania Raise the Minimum Wage Coalition and a Let Justice Roll steering committee member, said, "The overwhelming numbers for final passage of the minimum wage bill SB 1090 (161-37 in the House and 38-12 in the Senate) make it clear how the opposition hid behind their leader's refusals to allow a vote on a fair minimum wage. The coalition strategy to pack the capitol rotunda with supporters in Harrisburg and target legislative leaders in radio ads, direct organizing and political pressure to demand a vote made a real contribution to the final victory."
Building on success in Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Let Justice Roll is working in support of ballot initiatives and legislative efforts to increase the minimum wage in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana and Ohio.
At the federal level, the Let Justice Roll Campaign is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to at least $7.25 an hour and oppose any provisions that would weaken existing minimum wage eligibility, overtime protections or other labor laws.
"Talking about values is no substitute for valuing hardworking men and women all across this nation who need a higher minimum wage. We will keep organizing for a decent minimum wage so that workers no longer have to choose between rent and health care, putting food in the refrigerator or gas in the car." Sherry said.
The Let Justice Roll Campaign believes that raising the minimum wage is good for workers, business and our economy. 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 the 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 202.544.2350 or email at Ltune@ncccusa.org.
Additional information about the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign can be found online at www.letjusticeroll.org.
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NCC News contacts: Rev. Dan Webster 212.870.2252, Rev. Leslie Tune 202.544.2350
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