By Amelia Decker
After six weeks of research, planning, one-on-one conversations, re-planning, meetings, phone calls and emails, a round table conversation was held in Sioux Falls, S.D. to discuss the upcoming ballot measure that could raise the statewide minimum wage. Throughout the summer I had many conversations and listened to all of the perspectives in favor and against the change. I have become accustomed to the question, “Do you think it will pass?”
“Yes,” I respond. I do think it will pass. I think it will pass because people here care for one another, especially for the poorest in their community. They care, and that leads them to advocacy and action. With advocacy and action from the faith community, I believe South Dakota will see a win for minimum-wage workers.
The round table gathering late last month confirmed what I suspected to be true. In a one-party-controlled state, conversations appearing (or outrightly are) political can have daunting and serious implications, especially in communities of faith. Yet, despite these dynamics, the gathering was filled with leaders who wanted to talk about raising the minimum wage. Representing more than a half dozen denominations, and as diverse in age as one could hope for, they talked of their connection to the community as clergy, laity, city council, unions, Democrat, Republican, and perhaps most importantly, workers.
Faith leaders voiced their hopes for action within their congregations. They recognized and named challenges, but more importantly, recognized and named the power faith communities build by working together. As such, it was clear the conversation needed to be continued, and another meeting was set to do so again in this month.
So, yes. I do think Initiated Measure 18 will pass. Leaders in this community not only care, but know that they must take action. They have long been serving the poorest members of the community, and why they will continue to meet this fall in order to lift up workers and families who can be brought out of poverty by an increase in minimum wage.
As my work as an IWJ intern winds down, it is clear that the work for the faith community of Sioux Falls is only just beginning! This community will certainly be one to continue watching.
Amelia was an intern with IWJ's Summer Internship Program, and spend her summer working with faith communities in South Dakota to support the passage of Initiated Measure 18 to raise the state's minimum wage.