WASHINGTON — As lawmakers in the nation’s capital discuss a possible increase in federal minimum wage, Catholic leaders are asking that the needs of workers and families be kept in mind.
The current federal minimum wage fails “to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families,” argued Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, in a Jan. 8 letter to the U.S. Senate.
“We write not as economists or labor-market experts, but, rather, as pastors and teachers, who, every day, in our ministries and churches, see the pain and struggles caused by an economy that simply does not produce enough jobs with just wages,” the Catholic representatives continued.
The letter, which encourages policies “promoting decent work and ensuring fair and just compensation for all workers,” was sent Jan. 8 to members of the U.S. Senate, who will soon be considering proposed legislation to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour — where it has been since July 2009 — to $10.10 an hour over the course of three years.
Those who oppose the bill argue that an increase in minimum wage would decrease the number of jobs employers are able to provide.
According to the National Journal, Senate leaders in charge of the bill have opted to bypass committee deliberation and bring the legislation straight to the floor, likely in February.
Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder explained that, in the current economic system, “many of our families find it increasingly difficult to afford basic needs, forcing some to take multiple jobs or, in desperation, even seek out predatory loans” because they lack the resources to support their families.
Emphasizing the importance of family, they pointed to research suggesting that “as much as 25% of workers who would benefit from a minimum-wage increase are parents.”
“A full-year, full-time worker making the minimum wage does not make enough money to raise a child free from poverty,” the representatives said. “Because the minimum wage is a static number and does not change, each year it becomes more difficult for workers making the minimum wage to survive.”
Policies that promote decent work and a just wage would honor both work and society, they continued.
“Human work has inherent dignity, and just wages honor that dignity,” they wrote, adding that providing a just wage will also “allow us to develop more fully as individuals, families, neighborhoods, parishes and even society as a whole.”
They said, “Workers deserve a just wage that allows them to live in dignity, form and support families and contribute to the common good.”