It’s time

Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State

The Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, an Interfaith Worker Justice affiliate, is one of many groups that played an instrumental roles in the recent statewide increase in the minimum wage from $7.25/hr to $9/hr.

It’s time. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009. It hasn’t kept pace with the cost of living.

Michael Livingston

Livingston

Millions of our nation’s workers don’t make enough money to support themselves and their families. Even in a two-parent household, if both workers earn just the minimum wage, there is not enough money for housing, health care, food, insurance, utilities, transportation, and even a few meager amenities that make life enjoyable and convenient.

Worse yet, the wage for tipped workers hasn’t been raised in 22 years. It’s $2.13 an hour, which means employers don’t pay the wages of workers in restaurants: We, the diners, do.

Fair Minimum Wage Act

Into this breech comes the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 460/H.R. 1010) introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

The bill would also provide for annual increases … to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

The proposed legislation would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2015 in three increments of 95 cents. The bill would also provide for annual increases in the rate in future years to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

In addition, the bill would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 by 95 cents per year until it reaches 70% of the regular minimum wage.

In Washington, D.C., Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) staff has been working with allies to increase the number of cosponsors of the bill in the House and Senate. At this writing, the numbers are up to 29 in the Senate and 136 in the House. We have more work to do.

Strategic support

Locally IWJ has provided technical assistance and strategic support for our New York affiliate, the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, in its successful engagement of the state legislature resulting in a statewide increase in the minimum wage from $7.25/hr. to $9/hr. The increase is to be implemented in stages over the next three years.

IWJ is also engaged in minimum wage campaigns in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

State increases in the minimum wage will bolster the chances of making it an election issue in the 2014 campaigns, and passing the bills in congress.

Raise the minimum wage

Much more work needs to be done to demonstrate compelling support to make passage of the bill a reality in a House of Representatives that has proven hostile to measures that value working people.

Let’s rise up to raise the minimum wage. Go to Raise the Minimum Wage, and let Congress know that it’s time.

We’re also encouraging faith communities to lift up the issue of minimum wage this Labor Day. For worship resources, visit Labor in the Pulpit.

Editor's note: The Rev. Michael Livingston is National Policy Director and director of the Washington, D.C., office of Interfaith Worker Justice, which has been a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the United States since 1996. This article originally ran in the summer edition of Faith Works, the newsletter of Interfaith Worker Justice.

Letter to the Editor