Raise minimum wage as a matter of justice, U.S. bishops urge Congress
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Congress needs to increase the minimum wage for working people as “a matter of simple justice for a decent society,” said the U.S bishops.
In a Jan. 8 letter to members of the U.S. House and Senate, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee, urged passage of H.R. 2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.
The bill calls for an increase of the minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $5.85 an hour beginning 60 days after passage, $6.55 an hour beginning one year later and $7.25 an hour beginning one year after that.
A worker being paid at the current minimum wage for a 40 hour-week earns $10,712 a year, almost $6,000 below the U.S. poverty level for a family of three.
“As pastors, bishops see the tragic human and social consequences on individuals, their families, and society when workers cannot support themselves and their families by their own labor,” said the bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“In our shelters and soup kitchens, in our parishes and schools, we see working families who can't make ends meet,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
“We serve too many families where men and women work full time and still live in destitution,” he added.
Noting that nation’s Catholic conference “has supported the minimum wage since its inception as a just means to protect the human rights and dignity of workers,” he stated that the nation’s Catholic bishops “renew our support for an increase in the minimum wage.”
“The minimum wage needs to be raised not just for the goods and services a person can buy,” he said, “but for the self-esteem and self-worth it affords.”
Bishop DiMarzio stressed that the value of work must be seen as more than just a job and a paycheck.
“Work has a special place in Catholic social thought,” he said, as “a reflection of human dignity and a way to contribute to the common good.”
The “principle of a just wage,” he said, requires that wages paid to workers be enough “to provide for themselves and their families in dignity.”
An increase in the minimum wage is only one step needed to address the larger issue of poverty in America, Bishop DiMarzio said in his letter.
“Our nation needs a persistent and determined effort to overcome poverty,” he said.
The bishop called for the development of “a comprehensive strategy and common commitment to lift all of our brothers and sisters out of poverty” that is not subject “partisan and ideological” considerations.
“Congress needs to make budget and policy choices that will ensure adequate funding to help families escape joblessness, move beyond welfare, choose decent education for their children, gain needed health-care coverage, and overcome hunger and homelessness,” he said.