BY CHRIS KERR | May 4, 2014
Last week the U.S. Senate voted against moving forward with vital legislation that would gradually raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, increase the tipped minimum wage from $2.13 to 70% of the regular minimum wage, and index the minimum wage to inflation in order to ensure low income workers see their paychecks increase as the cost of living goes up. Basically, they turned down the opportunity for 28 million U.S. workers to have a more dignified wage.
As people of faith, we believe the minimum wage is far too low. Recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the minimum wage is not enough to raise a child above the poverty line. When adjusted for inflation, the current minimum wage is worth less today than it was in the 1960’s.
This is immoral, as the U.S. Catholic Bishops reminded Congress in a letter in January. No one working a full time job should live in poverty or have to raise their children in poverty. The U.S. Jesuit Conference and the Ignatian Solidarity Network echoed this message in a recent letter sent to the U.S. Senate sent on April 28, 2014.
Pope Francis has reminded us what work and wage are really about: people. This past fall, Pope Francis visited a group of workers in Cagliari, Italy and said, “It is therefore necessary to remove centrality from the law of profit and gain, and to put the person and the common good back at the center.”
Larry McCain, who works for a contractor at Boston Logan International Airport, was recently featured by Boston area NPR affiliate 90.9 WBUR in a story highlighting the minimum wage debate. Larry earns $8.33/hour and is a great example of why we need to raise the wage. When asked about the minimum wage increase he said, “A lot of things would change for me. Like my diet would change because I’d be able to afford things that are better to eat. My spirits would change.” People like Larry who work for wages at or near the minimum wage can’t keep waiting for Congress to act.
Despite the failure of the Senate vote, we will continue to be a voice grounded in faith calling for a wage that lifts people out of poverty and recognizes their God-given dignity. It is imperative that our nation’s leaders keep our economy on the pathway to a healthy recovery and support low-wage workers. #RaiseTheWage
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.