Update : Vote Needed on Minimum Wage
Thanks to everyone who contacted their Senators over the August Recess to urge them to increase the minimum wage. The Campaign for a Fair Minimum Wage continues to work on the Senate to bring the Minimum Wage issue to a vote. The schedule for the reminder of the year is tight (they appear ready to leave in early to mid October). Senator Kennedy's bill (S 2538) would raise the minimum wage in three steps from $5.15 to $6.65 by January 2004. Senate Majority Leader Daschle has indicated he is willing to entertain an Amendment to increase the minimum wage if appropriate legislation comes to the floor.
We will ALERT you if the amendment appears imminent so you can again contact your Senators' offices.
Neither House in Congress has acted on The Fair Minimum Wage Act. However, on July 24, the House of Representatives voted once again to raise its congressional pay. The 3.3 percent cost-of-living increase amounts to a raise of about $5,000. It has been six years since Congress raised the minimum wage; in that time Members of Congress, House and Senate, have received five raises.
Currently, a worker earning the minimum wage ($5.15) is $4,000 a year below the poverty line for a family of three. The cost of living has eroded the minimum wage set in 1997 at $5.15 to $4.46 today. A single mother raising two children who worked full time and received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 1997 was living just above the poverty line. Next year, if the minimum wage rate is not raised, that same mother and her children will fall below the poverty line.
The Conference supports The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2002.
Work has a special place in Catholic social thought: it is more than just a job, it is a reflection of our human dignity, and a way to contribute to the common good. Most important, it is the ordinary way people meet their material needs and community obligations. In Catholic teaching, the principle of a living wage is integral to our understanding of human work. Wages must be adequate for workers to provide for themselves and their families in dignity. While the minimum wage is not a living wage, the Church has supported increasing the minimum wage over the decades. The minimum wage needs to be raised to help restore its purchasing power, not just for the goods and services one can buy but for the self-esteem and self-worth it affords the individual.
Thom Shellabarger 202 541 3189; or, firstname.lastname@example.org