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NCC's Edgar calls Congressional action 'reprehensible' on minimum wage

New York City, March 14, 2007 The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) today called on Congress to account for linking federal minimum wage legislation with the bill to fund the Iraq war.

"It is reprehensible for Congress to attach the federal minimum wage to a funding request for what most religious leaders in America have called an immoral war," said the Rev. Bob Edgar in a message to the more than 105,000 members of FaithfulAmerica.org, NCC's online advocacy community.  Edgar urged the online members to email their Congressional representatives.

"Whatever the political maneuvers that led to this situation, it is clear Congressional leadership has lost sight of the value of working men and women in our nation who have gone too long without a raise," said Edgar. 

Edgar also reiterated his opposition to linking a minimum wage increase to tax breaks or other incentives to businesses who may hire minimum wage workers.

"Working Americans should not be a 'tack on' to some other legislation.  They should be treated with the dignity and justice they deserve," said Edgar.  "Offering tax breaks for business and wealthy citizens at the expense of working people across the country has been a hallmark of the current administration.  Religious leaders have consistently called the federal budget a moral document and decried its continued preferential option for the rich while the Bible clearly has--as Pope Paul VI stated--"a preferential option for the poor."

Edgar cited the success of Let Justice Roll, a nationwide coalition of more than 100 religious and community organizations that was initiated by the NCC.

Let Justice Roll "has been successful in raising minimum wages in 11 states because it convinced many legislators that the minimum wage is a moral issue, not an economic issue," he said.

The General Secretary, who also a former six-term Congressman from Pennsylvania, said raising the federal minimum wage is "the very least we can do for the least among us."

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches.  These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
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Statement of the Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA, on federal minimum wage legislation now before Congress

The federal minimum wage bill has been folded into the Iraq war spending legislation now before Congress.  Whatever the political maneuvers that led to this situation, it is clear Congressional leadership has lost sight of the value of working men and women in our nation who have gone too long without a raise. 

Working Americans should not be a "tack on" to some other legislation.  They should be treated with the dignity and justice they deserve.

In the January 1, 2007 issue of The Nation magazine, the NCC's anti-poverty campaign was praised for its work on behalf of the working poor in America.

"No group was more fundamental to the effort of linking the minimum wage to morality--and mobilizing these 'values voters'--than Let Justice Roll," said the magazine. 

Let Justice Roll has grown to a coalition of nearly 100 faith and community groups.  It has been successful in raising minimum wages in 11 states because it convinced many legislators that the minimum wage is a moral issue, not an economic issue.

It is reprehensible for Congress to attach the federal minimum wage to a funding request for what most religious leaders in America have called an immoral war.

It is also immoral to ask the working poor and other taxpayers to pay for the wage increase by offering tax breaks to business. 

Offering tax breaks for business and wealthy citizens at the expense of working people across the country has been a hallmark of the current administration.  Religious leaders have consistently called the federal budget a moral document and decried its continued preferential option for the rich while the Bible clearly has--as Pope Paul VI stated--"a preferential option for the poor."

I call on Congress to restore a clean bill, a just bill, a moral bill on increasing the federal minimum wage, without amendments or add-ons or tax incentives for anyone.  It's fair and right and just.  It's the very least we can do for the least among us.


 

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