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The Minimum Wage, Congress, and You

It’s time for Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act (S.460 and H.R.1010) which raises the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016, increases the minimum wage for tipped workers to 70% of the minimum wage, and indexes both to keep pace with the cost of living.

The current minimum wage imposes poverty upon millions of hard-working Americans. The congregation I serve, Hillcrest Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) in Pleasant Hill, is part of the recently formed Interfaith Action Coalition against Poverty in the East Bay. Every day we see workers who, given their wage, are unable to make it. Many think it is “the unemployed” who are served by food and clothing ministries. Among our clientele are many who are employed. I’d like to say “gainfully” employed but I can’t. There is nothing to be gained--in terms of “getting ahead” or “making a better life”-- when you are working for wages that insure poverty and dependence.

Scripture is clear in its call for the fair and just treatment of laborers (for example, Deuteronomy 24 and Isaiah 65). Jesus teaches the benefit to everybody when everybody is treated with dignity. Raising the minimum wage benefits everybody—the more people we have working and purchasing goods and services the more the economy thrives for everybody. The more our workers cannot even afford basic goods and services, the more the whole economy languishes.

The United Church of Christ, the national church body of which Hillcrest is a part, has called upon Congress to do the right thing and pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act. The time is now to get all of our workers “gainfully” employed, so that they, their families, and all of us gain.

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