The goal: Raise and index the minimum wage
“There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American whether he [or she] is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer.”
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A living wage for an honest day's work. Seems simple, right? Yet for millions of Americans earning minimum wage, this is nothing but a dream. In 2012, a working mother of two earning $7.25 per hour lived below the poverty line. All religious traditions affirm that work contributes to the dignity and worth of a person. Poverty level wages do not instill dignity. We must raise the federal minimum wage to a living wage and index it to inflation so it stays a living wage.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called for a $9 minimum wage and reignited the conversation about just pay. In March, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller wrote the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 which provides for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, tying the tipped wage to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and indexing them both to keep up with rising costs of living. This is sound economic policy for distressing economic times.
Contrary to some misguided talking points that claim an increase in minimum wage would hurt workers and the economy, research shows quite the opposite. Raising the minimum wage would mean a financial lift for nearly 30 million working Americans, have no effect on the unemployment rate, stimulate the economy, and boost public health.
But raising the wage is not enough. Before the ink dries on the bill, its value diminishes. Unless the minimum wage is indexed, as the cost of living rises each year its real dollar value decreases. It is a pyrrhic victory to pull working families out of poverty just to watch them slide back down again as the purchasing power of the minimum wage erodes. It is imperative to index the minimum wage to the cost of living remains a part of any bill Obama signs.
The time for raising and indexing the minimum wage is now. There is enormous popular support. Join with us as people of faith to tell Congress to index and raise the minimum wage.
“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24, NRSV)