The nation’s interfaith community used the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to call on the next U.S. president to tackle low wages. Leaders of 25 national religious organizations called on the presidential candidates to take “Moral Action On the Economy” by committing to pay federal contract workers livable wages and grant them collective bargaining rights.
In a joint statement, the group wrote “the suffering of low-wage workers and the growing economic inequality are not only political and economic issues, but also moral concerns that we are compelled by our faith traditions to address.”
The interfaith coalition is calling on the next U.S. president to issue an executive order ensuring that ‘model employers’ are rewarded if they pay a living wage of at least $15 an hour, provide good benefits and allow workers to organize without retaliation.
“Dr. King died on the front-lines of the fight for racial and economic justice,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Office of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “We honor his legacy by standing in solidarity with low-wage federal contract workers who struggle to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families.”
Nelson and other faith leaders have stood with low-wage federal contract workers as they prayed and picketed on the steps of the Capitol. Most of these workers, says Nelson, are people of color and women who walked off their jobs at numerous federal facilities on as many as 16 occasions to strike against poverty-level pay.
“We acknowledge that we live in a society that benefits, grows and thrives with the exploitation of low-wage workers,” said Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action in a press release. “And it’s not just a few companies, not a few bad actors, it is our government—it is us. And that means we are all culpable and must work together to correct our misdeeds.”
“We urge the next president to use the power of the pen to create a moral economy and lift millions of low-wage federal contract workers out of poverty,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK: a Catholic social justice lobby.
The low-wage federal contract workers organized their campaign under the banner of Good Jobs Nations. Their work, along with the faith community’s advocacy, led President Obama to issue three executive orders to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, curtail wage theft and other labor violations and extend paid leave to federal contract workers.
More information is available at www.goodjobsnation.org.