- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Partnership Model
- Focus Areas
- Campaigns and Actions
- Public Policy
- UU College of Social Justice
- What You Can Do
- Ways to Give
- Get Involved
- Enlist Your Congregation
- Read Our Blog
- Shop in Our Store
- Media Center
- Volunteer Network Resources
- Campaign Resources
- Multimedia Resources
- Congregational Resources
Federal Minimum Wage to Increase
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Another milestone on the road to economic justice, but struggle continues
Celeste Cook cares for disabled people in their Atlanta homes, preparing meals and medicines, giving baths, and wheeling clients into fresh air on sunny days. She loves her job. It's her passion to make sure that those she cares for live in comfort and dignity.
But Celeste can not afford health insurance for herself or her family members because she is paid just $5.15 per hour, the state minimum wage. As a health care worker in Georgia, she is not covered by the federal minimum wage.
In downtown Cleveland, Rodney Campbell gets up at 5 o'clock every morning to clean office buildings for $6.55 per hour. He makes the floors shine and the bathrooms sparkle — and he takes pride in his work. But when Rodney goes home, he struggles to provide for his children, sometimes relying on food banks to put dinner on the table. He worries about his kids' future.
Celeste and Rodney are not alone. One out of every four U.S. workers — more than 28 million workers between the ages of 18 and 64 — works in jobs that pay minimum wage or less. But fair wages are a family values issue, a women's rights issue, a children's rights issue, and a racial justice issue.
The federal minimum wage is a poverty wage
On Thursday, July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage increases to $6.55 per hour — the second of three increases won through grassroots organizing by groups like UUSC and our partner Let Justice Roll. One year from now, it will go up once more, to $7.25. While $6.55 and $7.25 are necessary way stations on the road to an anti-poverty wage, they are still nowhere near sufficient.
Promoting the right to a living wage is a cornerstone of UUSC's Economic Justice Program. The participation of UUSC members and volunteers has been integral to the success of grassroots living wage campaigns in several states, whose cumulative victories helped gain congressional and presidential approval in 2007 for the first raise in the federal minimum wage in 10 years.
Now, UUSC and our partners are continuing the fight for living wages by promoting "$10 by 2010" as an important, reasonable step toward making up ground lost in minimum-wage buying power since 1968 and bringing the minimum wage closer to a living wage.
We continue to build strong support among faith and business communities in this movement. In June 2008, Unitarian Universalists, meeting at their annual UUA General Assembly, expressed solidarity with Let Justice Roll and UUSC's Wage Justice! Initiative by passing an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage to $10 to 2010.
This AIW lays the foundation for continued collaboration between Let Justice Roll, UUSC, and the UUA. Together, we continue to pursue the right to a living wage by following a state-by-state strategy and by launching a new national "$10 in 2010" campaign. Here is a snapshot of what we are supporting on the ground in three key states, Georgia, Kansas, and Tennessee.
Recent surveys show that 84 percent of Georgia voters believe that all workers in Georgia should be paid at or above the federal minimum wage. However, the state's legislature has consistently failed to respond to the will of its constituents, shutting out home health care workers and certain farm, fishing, and seasonal recreation workers.
The Georgia Minimum Wage Coalition has been working tirelessly to pressure the state legislature to raise the state minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to above the federal level. With support from UUSC and Let Justice Roll, the coalition is organizing new allies in the faith community, building momentum and support to raise wages for all workers in Georgia.
At $2.65 per hour, Kansas has the lowest minimum wage in the nation — and it has been stuck there for 20 years. A worker in Wichita earning $2.65 an hour, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks per year, earns just $5,512 per year — which is $11,658 below the 2007 federal poverty line for a single parent with two children.
To address this situation, the Raise the Wage, Kansas campaign has launched a coordinated, city-by-city strategy in Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita, with the support of Let Justice Roll and UUSC.
On July 24, Wyandotte County's Unified Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that boosted the minimum wage in Kansas City, Kan., to $6.55 an hour. According to a July 25 Kansas City Star article, "The hike is the first of its kind for a city in Kansas."
Rev. Jim Eller, minister of All Souls UU Church, in Kansas City, Missouri, along with members of the congregation’s core team, worked on the successful Kansas City, Kansas, campaign — in coordination with MORE2, an interfaith congregation-based community organization that works for racial and economic justice in the bi-state metropolitan Kansas City region.
Rev. Lisa Schwartz, minister of the UU Fellowship of Topeka, Kan., along with others, are working with Raise the Wage on an ordinance to raise wages in Topeka, similar to one being promoted in Georgia.
These efforts are building momentum towards a future campaign to raise the state minimum wage.
The Nashville Movement is a growing coalition of workers, community organizations, students, and congregations committed to ending poverty and winning respect for the lowest-income workers in Nashville. Their goals include securing a multi-tiered living-wage ordinance, developing a worker center by 2010, and creating state-level legislation for racial and economic justice.
The First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Nashville has been an active leader in this movement. It has organized its members in direct actions and created a congregation-based economic justice curriculum for youth. Let Justice Roll is also supporting the movement to hire its first dedicated faith-based organizer who will dramatically expand participation among diverse congregations.
A job should keep youout of poverty, not keep you in it
Celeste and Rodney should not have to choose between paying rent and seeing the doctor, or between putting food on the table or gas in their car so they can get to work. It is immoral that workers who care for children, the ill, and the elderly have to struggle to care for themselves and their families.
On July 24 and beyond, be sure to call attention to the significance of the minimum-wage raise by sending an e-mail to your friends and family, writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, and speaking to fellow members of your congregations and schools. Check out our living wage resource materials to support you in this outreach, and help spread the word to raise the minimum wage to at least $10 in 2010.