By Bob Allen
ASSOCIATED BAPTIST PRESS — Paying a full-time worker $290 a week in today’s economy is immoral, faith leaders said in a recent letter urging Congress to raise the minimum wage.
“The call to raise the minimum wage is about more than income inequality. It’s a moral issue,” James Perkins, vice president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, said in a press conference ahead of a scheduled Senate vote on a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
Perkins, pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit, termed the proposal to up the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour “an opportunity to help families support themselves.”
Senate Republicans blocked the measure April 30, when it failed to get 60 votes needed to open debate. Just one Republican joined majority Democrats in an unsuccessful attempt to overcome a GOP filibuster.
Currently, they said, many workers who perform “grueling and important jobs” like farm work and cleaning buildings “are paid so little that they must turn to charity and government assistance to make ends meet.”
“We respect the dignity of our neighbors who toil under the yoke of today’s unjust minimum wage, and we call on our elected leaders to ease their burden by making the minimum wage a family wage,” said the letter organized by public policy groups Interfaith Worker Justice and Faith in Public Life.
“The faith community is united across the nation in advocating for increasing the minimum wage,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, a worker-justice advocacy group she founded in 1996. “All faith traditions teach us that we have to care for the least among us.”
Lead signers included Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Carol Blythe, president of the Alliance of Baptists; Stan Hastey, founding executive director of the Alliance of Baptists; Wesley Pattillo, a trustee at Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Ala.; and LeDayne McLeese Polaski, program coordinator of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.
Other lead signers included David Beckman of Bread for the World, Richard Killmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Jim Wallis of Sojourners.
Bob Allen is news editor of ABPnews/Herald.