WASHINGTON, August 30, 2002- A coalition of religious organizations today sent a letter coordinated by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) to House and Senate members urging an increase in the national minimum wage.In conjunction with the letter, RAC Associate Director Mark Pelavin issued the following statement:
As Americans across the country celebrate Labor Day, we are reminded that our national minimum wage had remained stagnant since President Clinton signed an increase into law in 1996, raising the minimum wage to $5.15 per hour. Today, inflation has reduced the real value of those earnings so greatly that a family of three subsisting on the earnings of a minimum wage worker will fall $4,300 below the poverty line. As our economy continues to falter, it is essential that we address the needs of the more than 11 million workers who would directly benefit from a minimum wage increase.
The RAC joins with other members of the religious community in supporting the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2002 (S. 2538/H.R. 4799), introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. David Bonior (D-MI). This legislation would increase the minimum wage by $1.50 per hour, over time allowing a family of three to pay for more than 15 months of groceries, more than eight months of rent, more than seven months of utilities or tuition for a community college degree.
We agree with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which stated, "Despite the official reduction in poverty across this nation, homelessness, and hunger among working families continues to increase. The number of families turning to food banks and soup kitchens is sky rocketing. We must value the work of all people by raising the minimum wage. All workers have the right to live with dignity. All have the right to decent remuneration for the work that they do."
We cannot afford to ignore the poverty-level wages currently earned by a significant portion of the American labor force. Minimum wage workers should be able to support their families and meet their needs. The dignity that comes with hard day's work can only be sustained through a fair day's wages. For this reason, we encourage all members of the House and Senate to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
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 1800 Reform rabbis.