Church Worldwide: Faith Leaders Ask Candidates to Give Poor ‘Living Wage’

On the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dozens of faith leaders called for the U.S. presidential candidates to include a “living wage” for low-income workers in their political agendas.

“Today, we call on all those who are seeking the Presidency of the United States to honor the legacy of Dr. King and stand in solidarity with all people who are seeking to achieve racial and economic justice in our society,” they said in an “Interfaith Call for Moral Action on the Economy” that was released on April 4.

“By helping our nation’s most vulnerable workers achieve justice at work, the next president can lift millions out of poverty and secure a brighter future for all Americans.”

The campaign is focused especially on low-wage federal contract workers who cook for senators, clean the offices of generals and sell souvenirs to tourists at the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and the National Zoo. They say most make too little money to adequately care for their families.

They seek wages of at least $15 an hour, improved benefits, and the ability to organize without retaliation.

Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation, said it’s appropriate for faith leaders to link the cause of these workers with the legacy of King. The civil rights leader died in Memphis, Tenn., where he went to support a racial and economic equality campaign for striking sanitation workers.

Jim Winkler, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, is among the religious leaders supporting the effort to seek a pledge from candidates to help the working poor.

“This election is fundamentally about whether the next president is willing to take transformative executive action to close the gap between the wealthy and workers—many of whom are women and people of color,” he said.

Supporters of the campaign call the U.S. “America’s biggest low-wage creator,” with more than 2 million jobs through federal contracts, grants, and loans.

“When low-wage workers don’t make enough to provide for their most basic needs, it is not just an economic issue—it is a moral crisis,” said Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action.

The new phase of the ongoing campaign comes as fast-food restaurant employees plan to strike in 300 cities and other low-wage workers intend to protest on April 14.

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The obvious solution to low wages in a free country is a union contract.

Readers should take note of several points relating to this article.

First, the appeal here is made to the presidential candidates, not to the current president who could issue a goodly part of what these petition signers demand by issuing an executive order.  We know President Obama knows how to use executive orders so why is no appeal made to him?

Second, most signers (85% or so) of this appeal are Universalist churches, not a tradition known for either its theological or political/economic prowess.  And it shows (continue reading).

Third, these same petitioners, who here so earnestly lament low wages for the low skilled work force, also advocate for the greatly increased (over what the law allows) immigration, legal and illegal no less, of a low skilled work force.  Of course an increased low skilled worker supply will push down low skilled worker wages, just the opposite of what these petitioners say they want.  But perhaps they want both, regardless of economic rules, which is why they demand that government order it?  That won't work either, any more than the government's past plan for everyone to own their own home work.  That plan resulted in a huge housing bubble (that went "pop!") and economic disaster  (especially for the low skilled, ironically).  This "plan," hatched out of a similar level of economic thinking prowess, will do no better in achieving it's end goal, but it may well create harmful side effects, just like similar plans have before.  

Fourth, creating a national minimum living wage suggests the cost to live in Manhattan (NYC) is the same as in Scio, Oregon (look it up).  Wow, the economic prowess is really showing.

Fifth, creating a national living wage will cut off those 19, 20, etc, year olds without work experience, who just want to get work experience regardless of how much they make, from getting it.  Which will keep many of them from getting into the economic system for years.

Sixth, creating a national living wage will strongly encourage employers of low skilled employees to look for ways to mechanize and automate the work previously done by those employees.  And the people who create that technology won't be low skilled, which in turn will increase the wealth gap these protestors are protesting in the first place.

Seventh, creating a national living wage will strongly encourage employers of low skilled employees to take a look at moving overseas, or outsourcing to overseas, to avoid the enormous cost of low skilled labor in the US.  Which in turn will encourage populist political candidates like Donald Trump to feed on anger and frustration by promising to start trade wars and alienate US businesses who need to compete in a global economic where low skilled employees usually make less that $1 per hour.

Eighth, none of the signers, NOT ONE, of these petitioners appears to have a degree or other credentials in ecomomics, micro or macro, nor any sense for the reality of economics policy in a world economy.  Let's hope they don't next start petitioning for their preferred way of running nuclear power plants as well as the national economy, or selecting effective cancer treatments, or energy policy.  What, they petition about those things too?  And we listen to that too?

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