Council Press Statement on Raising the Minimum Wage

Statement by The Rev. Sandra Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy

July 20, 2012, Carlisle, PA

Good afternoon! I’m Sandy Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, and I’m very happy to have the opportunity to be here with you here today.

As Christians, we are called to follow the teachings of Jesus and the example of his life. Jesus’ heart for those who were struggling and disenfranched guides us to protect our most vulnerable–including single mothers and all who find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water—and to be their voice when they are not being heard.

All people, created in God’s image, have value and deserve respect—including payment of just rewards for their labor. A just reward would be a living wage that makes it possible to support a family and live with dignity. It’s to that end that we call for raising the minimum wage.

Supporting an increase in the minimum wage has never been a question for the Council.  For us, it’s a justice issue, plain and simple.  Even with the federal minimum wage hike a few years ago, full time minimum wage work cannot support a family, and it’s barely enough for an individual to survive.  No one who works a full-time job should be unable to support a family without public assistance. It’s immoral and outrageous.

Even Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, said:  “It is but equity…that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.”[1]

We believe the best way to care for all workers at the low end of the wage scale is to help lift them out of poverty. Raising the minimum wage represents a huge step toward that goal.

As we stand here next to Dunkin Donuts–owned by a multi-billion dollar corporation–we are also reminded of the widening gap between those that own this store and those who work inside. The value of those inside—and so many other low wage workers—is rarely recognized. Yet it’s their hard work that has created enormous corporate profits and obscene wealth for corporate executives and stockholders. The fact that our leaders refuse to recognize this immoral and unethical disparity is appalling and wrong—and it’s time to fix it.

It’s time for our leaders to wake up and recognize the value of those whose hard work contributes to making our lives better and more convenient in so many ways. It’s time for workers to be paid a living wage so they can live with dignity.

I leave you today with the following thought:  A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it.  It’s as simple as that.  It’s time for our Congress to act by adopting a just, living minimum wage, indexed to the cost of living, now.

[1]A Just Minimum Wage:  Good for Workers, Business and Our Future (American Friends Service Committee, the National Council of Churches and Holly Sklar, 2005), p. 1.

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