Faith Leaders Applaud Obama’s Call for an Increase to the Federal Minumum Wage

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For Immediate Release, February 13, 2013
Contact: Cathy Junia, cjunia@iwj.org / 773-710-9837

National – Interfaith Worker Justice joins people of faith around the country in applauding President Obama’s recent call for a federal minimum wage increase during last night’s State of the Union address.

“Raising the minimum wage is the clearest and fastest way to lift families out of poverty,” said Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo. “It also stimulates the economy by increasing spending in our communities.

IWJ-19 states have already established minimum wage rates higher than the current federal rate of $7.25. Congress last voted toraise the federal minimum wage in 2007, approving legislation that raised the minimum wage in three steps from $5.15 per hour to the current rate of $7.25 by July 2009. If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with the rising cost of living since 1968, it would equal $10.56 today; instead, decades of Congressional inaction have allowed the minimum wage to lose 30 percent of its purchasing power.

“Surprised to hear it included but very pleased that the president chose to include this among his top priorities for this year. It’s a priority because raising the minimum wage is long overdue. Wages haven’t kept pace with proactivity or the economy. People who make the minimum wage or less are falling even further behind every month, every year that passes. Person who works full time and makes the minimum wage in the U.S. is guaranteed to be poor. That’s the tragic absurdity that is also just plain wrong, immoral, and contrary to the spirit of our democracy. As a people of faith, as Christians, we are called to stand with especially the most vulnerable people among us. People who make minimum wage and below are among those for whom God has a special concern and our faith compels us to stand with them, to join our voices with their and to demand just and fair wages.”

Polling consistently reveals broad public support for raising the minimum wage: A national poll conducted in 2012 found that nearly three in four likely voters (73 percent) support increasing theminimum wage to $10 per hour and indexing it to inflation. The same poll showed 50 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Independents favoring anincrease in the minimum wage.
 
A record number of business voices have endorsed raising and indexing the federal minimum wage. Nearly 1,000 business leaders, including Costco, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce CEO Margot Dorfman, Addus Health Care CEO Mark Heaney, Credo Mobile President Michael Kieschnick, ABCHome CEO Paulette Cole, and small business owners from all 50 states, signed a statement supporting the last increase in the federal minimum wage.
 
President Obama also called for indexing the federal minimum wage to rise automatically with the cost of living – a key policy reform that 10 states have already adopted. In January of 2012, Republican presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney expressed supported for indexing the minimum wage to rise with inflation, stating, “My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI [Consumer Price Index] or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time….  I already indicated that when I was governor of Massachusetts and that’s my view.”
 
The President’s support for an increase in the minimum wage demonstrates an understanding of the growing role of the minimum wage in today’s service-based economy.  An August NELP study showed that while the majority of jobs lost during the recession were in middle-wage occupations, 58 percent of those created in the post-recession recovery have been low-wage occupations. That shift towards low-wage jobs is a 30-year trend that is only accelerating, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
 
 The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, introduced in July of last year, called for raising the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour by 2014, boosting the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the full minimum wage, and indexing the minimum wage to rise automatically with the cost of living. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, this proposal would have boosted  the incomes of 28 million low-paid workers in the U.S., generating $25 billion in new consumer spending and supporting the creation of over 100,000 full-time jobs.
 
In November 2012, voters in Albuquerque, San Jose, and Long Beach approved ballot measures by overwhelming margins to raise the wages of the lowest-paid workers in each city. Citywide minimum wage increases passed inAlbuquerque, with 66 percent support, and in San Jose, with 59 percent support, while 63 percent of Long Beach voters approved an ordinance establishing a higher minimum wage for hotel workers in the city.
 
The most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high.  As Bloomberg News recently summarized, “[A] wave of new economic research is disproving those arguments about job losses and youth employment. Previous studies tended not to control for regional economic trends that were already affecting employment levels, such as a manufacturing-dependent state that was shedding jobs. The new research looks at micro-level employment patterns for a more accurate employment picture. The studies find minimum-wage increases even provide an economic boost, albeit a small one, as strapped workers immediately spend their raises.” National Employment Law Project

Contact: Daniel Massey, Daniel@berlinrosen.com, (917) 370-7312
Emma Stieglitz, EmmaS@berlinrosen.com, (267) 566-423
Jen Kern, (202) 494-2603


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. IWJ has a network of more then 60 worker centers and interfaith groups around the country.

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