New York City -- As Congress continues to stall on raising the minimum wage, the national Let Justice Roll Campaign will hold hundreds of rallies, workshops, religious services and prayer breakfasts in October to build support for raising the minimum wage at the state and federal level.
Let Justice Roll, a fast-growing nonpartisan partnership of more than 80 faith and community groups, is working to pass minimum wage ballot measures in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Ohio.
Let Justice Roll played a leading role in recent state minimum wage increases in Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and helped win victories in California and Massachusetts. Next year, Let Justice Roll will be leading campaigns for legislative minimum wage increases in states such as New Hampshire and Tennessee.
A recent poll showed that nine out of ten Americans support a higher minimum wage, but Congress has not raised it in more than nine years. The minimum wage has lost more than a fifth of its value since the last increase in 1997 to $5.15 an hour, and has less buying power than the minimum wage of 1950.
"We've long seen scorecards from the Christian Coalition and others show how members of Congress vote on so-called social issues, but not on help for the poor, which the Bible mandates hundreds of times. But millions of ‘values voters’ care about fair wages for the people who do some of the hardest, most important jobs in our society -- from childcare teachers we entrust with our children to healthcare aides we entrust with our parents," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, a leading member of Let Justice Roll.
"It's a moral abomination they are paid a wage that traps them in poverty," said Edgar, a former six-term member of Congress and author of the new book, "Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right" (Simon & Schuster).
"Let Justice Roll members know that talking about values is no substitute for valuing hardworking men and women all across this nation who need a higher minimum wage," said Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, Let Justice Roll Campaign National Coordinator. "The message of Living Wage Days is clear: A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it," said Sherry, co-author of "A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future."
Many Let Justice Roll "Living Wage Days" events will take place on the weekends of October 7-8 and October 14-15. Among the states holding events are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. (See below for event highlights in Ohio, Montana, Colorado and Arizona.)
Contrary to minimum wage opponents’ assertions, states that have raised their minimum wage above the federal level have had better employment trends, including among retail and small businesses, than states that have not.
At the federal level, the Let Justice Roll Campaign is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to at least $7.25 an hour and oppose measures that would weaken existing minimum wage eligibility, tipped worker coverage, overtime or other labor protections, or link minimum wage to tax cuts for the wealthy.
“The contrasts are staggering," said Johanna Chao Rittenburg, Let Justice Roll Steering Committee member and program manager for economic justice at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. "Forbes magazine announces that the 400 richest Americans are now all billionaires after the Census Bureau announced that median full-time pay is down though productivity is up. Congressional leaders are holding the minimum wage hostage to a tax cut for wealthy heirs. Let Justice Roll believes it is morally imperative that everyone who works for a living earns a living wage,” said Rittenburg, who is also co-editor of "Resources for Living Wage Worship Services and Community Events."
Living Wage Days Resources available at www.letjusticeroll.org include
- "Resources for Living Wage Worship Services and Community Events," a comprehensive Let Justice Roll resource guide (available in pdf format).
- "A Just Minimum Wage: Good
for Workers, Business and Our Future," co-authored by Holly Sklar and Rev. Paul
Sherry, and produced by the American Friends Service Committee and the National
Council of Churches USA. "A Just Minimum Wage" is available in pdf format at
OHIO: Hundreds of services and events will be held across
Ohio, including Akron, Athens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and
Columbus, Oct. 5., the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, longtime senior minister at Riverside Church, New York City, will give the keynote at We Believe Ohio "Get Out the Vote Rally for Justice," Congregation Tifereth Israel. Rev. Forbes wrote the foreword to “A Just Minimum Wage."
MONTANA: Missoula, Sept. 28,
"Many Faiths, One Voice: Missoulians for Wage Justice," with wisdom from
Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Native American spiritual traditions,
University Congregational Church.
Missoula, Oct. 7, "Many Faiths, One Voice: Rally for the Raise."
Helena, Oct. 21, statewide Progressive Clergy Alliance conference on Let Justice Roll and state and federal minimum wage.
COLORADO: Lone Tree, Oct. 7,
Johanna Chao Rittenburg, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee program
manager for economic justice, leads workshop: "Could you survive on $5.15/hr --
Faith activists for a just minimum wage."
Denver, Oct 14, African-American Ministers Issues Forum spotlighting minimum wage ballot initiative, Macedonia Baptist Church.
ARIZONA: Living Wage Days kicked off on Labor Day Weekend with more than 50 congregations hosting Labor in the Pulpit, a signature event of Let Justice Roll member organization, Interfaith Worker Justice. In October, Living Wage Days will feature numerous events, including the multi-congregation Oct. 15 "Stand Up Against Poverty," sponsored by Let Justice Roll member organization, WHEAT (World Hunger Education, Advocacy & Training Organization