(Vatican Radio) U.S. Catholic leaders have called on Congress to ensure that the federal minimum wage is raised to “improve the financial security of millions of American families”. In a letter, dated July 28th, Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Sr Donna Markham, President of Catholic Charities USA, note that a full-time worker, currently earning the federal minimum wage, “does not make enough to raise a child free from poverty”.
As pastors and service providers, they say they see how each year “it becomes more difficult for low-wage workers to make ends meet”. Quoting from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus, they stress that society and the State must guarantee wage levels “adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family”, as well as ensuring “adequate legislative measures” to stop exploitation of the most vulnerable. Protecting low-wage workers and promoting their ability to form and nurture families, the two Catholic leaders insist, are shared responsibilities and critical to building a more equitable society
Please find below the full text of the letter from Sr Donna Markham and Bishop Thomas Wenski
July 28, 2015
On behalf of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA, we write to lift up the struggles of low-wage workers and their families. We urge you to advance legislation and policies that would ensure fair and just wages for all workers, and in doing so improve the financial security of millions of American families.
An economy thrives only when it is centered on the dignity and well-being of the workers and families in it. As pastors and service providers, we see every day the consequences when society fails to honor this priority. A full-year, full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage does not make enough to raise a child free from poverty. Because the federal minimum wage is a static number and does not change, each year it becomes more difficult for low-wage workers to make ends meet. This leads to increased demand for Charities’ services and reliance on the social safety net to make ends meet. Indeed, recent research suggests that about three-fourths (73 percent) of those who receive public benefits come from working families, meaning they or a family member is employed.
Saint John Paul II pointed out, “society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings. This requires a continuous effort to improve workers' training and capability so that their work will be more skilled and productive, as well as careful controls and adequate legislative measures to block shameful forms of exploitation, especially to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable workers. . . (Centesimus Annus, no. 15).
Protecting low-wage workers and promoting their ability to form and nurture families are shared responsibilities and critical to building a more equitable society. One way Congress can contribute to this shared work of promoting the common good is by ensuring the federal minimum wage promotes family formation and stability.
Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski
Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
Sister Donna Markham, OP, Ph.D.
President of Catholic Charities USA
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