US faith groups to campaign for living wages
Faith and community groups across the United States will be joined by Senator Edward Kennedy to honour 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, 14-16 January 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 US 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 [Hebrew] prophet Amos, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream," said the Rev Dr Paul Sherry, coordinator of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign.
Senator Kennedy, who will participate in the opening event on Monday 16 January at the historic United First Parish Church Unitarian in Quincy, Massechussets, 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.
"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 labourer," Martin Luther 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 US dollars 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 US dollars an hour today, not 5.15 US dollars.
According to the 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 US dollars a year, which is about 5,000 US dollars below the poverty line for a family of three. This is a moral outrage."
He continued: "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."
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 individual states - including Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, West
Virginia and Arkansas - to support and advocate for minimum wage increases.
For further information, see www.letjusticeroll.org.
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