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Religious Leaders Letter on Minimum Wage

View the Statement by Rabbi David Saperstein at the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support Press Conference on Increasing the Minimum Wage from June 13, 2001

June 13, 2001

Dear President Bush and Members of Congress:

We religious leaders, representing various religious traditions, have joined together to express our strongest support for the proposed $1.50 increase in the federal minimum wage. We urge adoption of this increase without excessive tax breaks or other amendments that would weaken important worker protections.

It has been four long years since congress acted to give this country's lowest wage workers a raise. Over that time, these workers, a majority of whom are adults helping to support their families, have seen almost all of the gains of the last increase disappear through inflation. Though these working people may work two or even three jobs, many still have to decide between medicine or paying the rent, school clothes for their children or paying for a repair of the car they need to get to work. These pressures do nothing but strain families and communities, replacing hope with despair

While the country as a whole is enjoying unprecedented prosperity - the longest period of economic growth in the nation's history and the lowest unemployment rate in three decades - minimum wage workers and their families have been left behind. An economic system that allows a privileged few to live in comfort and wealth while others struggle to provide food and shelter for their families, is neither just nor compassionate. We can and must do better.

The proposed increase, though modest, would give a much-needed boost to 11 million hard-working Americans. The issue is one of basic human rights and economic fairness and should transcend partisan lines. However, we are gravely concerned by reports that some in Congress will propose an even smaller increase of only $1.00 over three years as well as amendments that would compromise the 40-hour work week and strip overtime pay from millions of workers. We are most disturbed by proposals that would effectively repeal the federal minimum wage law by allowing states to opt-out of any increase. We vigorously oppose these attacks on historic protections.

As people of faith, we believe that human dignity and worth is a gift of God and that the work one does helps shape and give meaning to an individual's self worth and to the collective life of our communities. It is in this spirit that we urge you, our President and members of Congress, to act immediately to raise the wages of hard-working people who serve the food we eat, clean the buildings in which we work, care for the children and elderly we love. Justice and compassion for "the least of these" demand no less.


The Rev. H. George Anderson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. David Beckmann
Bread for the World

Ms. Kim Bobo
Executive Director
National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

The Rev. John A. Buehrens
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Bishop William P. DeVeaux
President, Council of Bishops
African Methodist Episcopal Church

Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos
Ecumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Bishop Joseph Fiorenza
Diocese of Galveston-Houston
National Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Auxiliary Bishop
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit

The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Ms. Florence C. Kimball
Legislative Education Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers)

The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Bishop Nathaniel Linsey
Ecumenical Officer
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Rabbi Paul Menitoff
Executive Vice President
Central Conference of American Rabbis

Mr. Jose Ortiz
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

The Rev. Troy Perry
Presiding Bishop
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

Rabbi David Saperstein
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

The Rev. Melvin Talbert
Ecumenical Officer
Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church

The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

The Rev. Jim Wallis
Convener and President
Call To Renewal

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.

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