Labor Secretary Tom Perez: Faith Matters

The following is a cross post from the Department of Labor's blog, (Work in Progress), about last week's visit by IWJ's Policy Director, the Rev. Michael Livingston, and other national faith leaders to discuss the moral imperative to raise the federal minimum wage in 2014.

By Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor

The groundswell of support for increasing the federal minimum wage is formidable.

Workers support it because they need a raise. Forward-looking businesses support it because they know it’s part of a sound business model. And the faith community is also a part of this diverse and growing coalition, lending its considerable influence to the debate.

the Rev. Micahel Livingston at DOLThis afternoon, I met with a group of religious leaders who are coming together to raise up the moral imperative of rewarding hard work with a fair wage. This is simply the right thing to do, and no one can make that case better than men and women who have made faith their life’s work.

We had Christians, Jews and Muslims in the room. But although they preach from different holy books, they are united in a belief in social and economic justice, in the idea of human dignity and making sure everyone has a fair shot.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and one of the famous “Nuns on the Bus,” was there. She talked about the minimum wage in terms of universal values, as “a justice issue for everyone in the nation.” For the minimum wage to be a poverty wage and for the nation to experience vast income inequality is “hurtful to the 100 percent,” she explained.

The group around the table today represents millions of people. And they are not just spreading the word among their own followers; they are working together through interfaith partnerships to build a collaborative whole greater than the sum of their parts.

My faith has informed my values on this issue and so many others. Growing up in a religious home and receiving a Catholic education, I learned from an early age that we must do everything possible to embrace and empower the least among us.

It leads me to only one conclusion: hardworking America deserves a raise. And I’m eager to work with everyone – no matter to whom they pray and even if they are not believers at all – to make it happen.

As people of faith, we echo the moral necessity to raise the federal minimum wage to one that honors the dignity of work and allows all who are able to work to earn a living and provide for their loved ones. We believe that when workers are paid a living family wage that adequately compensates them for their work, their human dignity is uplifted and respected. All workers deserve such human dignity.

Join the chorus! Click here to sign the open letter telling Congress it's long been time for a moral and just minimum wage!