Dear Senators and Representatives:
As leaders in our faith communities, we call on the Illinois General Assembly to raise the state minimum wage and thereby foster economic recovery for our families, our communities and our state.
An adequate minimum wage is a bedrock moral value. Our diverse faiths all affirm the dignity of the worker and the moral imperative of fair and just wages. A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in poverty. Yet in our own state of Illinois the minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, providing only $17,000 a year for a full-time worker, which is not enough to live on.
It is immoral that people work full time, but have to choose between paying the rent and paying for child care. It is immoral to have wages so low that waitresses, cashiers and child care workers depend on food banks and food stamps to help feed their families. It is immoral to have wages so low that housekeepers, health care aides and security guards go to work every day from homeless shelters.
It is immoral that the minimum wage keeps people in poverty instead of out of poverty.
Raising the minimum wage is not only vital for our working families, it is vital for our economy, as workers take their pay increase and spend it on needed goods and services at their corner markets, pharmacies and other local businesses.
In 1968, just days before his murder, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told sanitation workers in Memphis, “It is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.” King said, “We are tired of working our hands off and laboring every day and not even making a wage adequate with daily basic necessities of life.”
The real value of the minimum wage is less now, more than 40 years later, than it was when Dr. King spoke those prophetic words. The minimum wage would be about $10 today if it had kept pace with the cost of living.
The Golden Rule teaches us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We, faith leaders across the state, urge the Illinois General Assembly to restore the historic value of the minimum wage ($1.60 in 1968, which is $10.03 adjusted for inflation in 2010 dollars) with annual increases of 50 cents plus inflation. After its historic value is restored, the minimum wage should be adjusted annually so it does not again fall behind the rising cost of living.
In raising the minimum wage, we lift our working families and our state.
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