WASHINGTON, September 28, 1999 — Joining Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman and Representative David Bonior (D-MI) at a Capitol Hill press conference today in support of an increase in the minimum wage, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism released the following statement:
On behalf of the 875 congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the 1,800 Rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the 1.5 million Reform Jews across the nation, I am pleased to offer our full support for vital efforts to raise the federal minimum wage. There is no single step we can take to better aid those making the difficult and often elusive journey from welfare to the workplace, and no challenge which more urgently demands our attention.
The current wage of $5.15 has not kept pace with inflation. A full-time worker receiving minimum wage earns only $10,700 a year-$2,900 below the poverty line for a family of three. Women in particular are struggling just to keep their families afloat. The time has come to rush to these women's aid. Indeed, that time is long past.
The Reform movement has a proud tradition of making real the biblical teaching "Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy" (Proverbs 31:9) by working to ensure that our nation's poor are treated with dignity, respect, and, most importantly, given a fair chance to escape the binds of poverty. Our tradition teaches that it is more valuable to help a person become self-supporting than it is to give that person a handout of food or money. Increasing the minimum wage will help those in entry-level jobs be less reliant on federal assistance programs (such as food stamps) and be more self-sufficient.
We commend Senator Kennedy and Representative for their leadership on this issue, and commit ourselves to working with them and others, including those joined here today, who share our passion for justice to enact this much-needed legislation. A higher, fairer, minimum wage is what America's working poor need. It is what sound public policy dictates. It is what our values demand.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.