Faith Matters

The groundswell of support for increasing the federal minimum wage is formidable.

Workers support it because they need a raise. Forward-looking businesses support it because they know it’s part of a sound business model. And the faith community is also a part of this diverse and growing coalition, lending its considerable influence to the debate.

This afternoon, I met with a group of religious leaders who are coming together to raise up the moral imperative of rewarding hard work with a fair wage. This is simply the right thing to do, and no one can make that case better than men and women who have made faith their life’s work.

Faith leaders Rev. Michael Livingston (left) and Rev. Gabriel Salguero (right) discuss why they believe it's time to raise the wage for hardworking Americans.

We had Christians, Jews and Muslims in the room. But although they preach from different holy books, they are united in a belief in social and economic justice, in the idea of human dignity and making sure everyone has a fair shot.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and one of the famous “Nuns on the Bus,” was there. She talked about the minimum wage in terms of universal values, as “a justice issue for everyone in the nation.” For the minimum wage to be a poverty wage and for the nation to experience vast income inequality is “hurtful to the 100 percent,” she explained.

The group around the table today represents millions of people. And they are not just spreading the word among their own followers; they are working together through interfaith partnerships to build a collaborative whole greater than the sum of their parts.

My faith has informed my values on this issue and so many others. Growing up in a religious home and receiving a Catholic education, I learned from an early age that we must do everything possible to embrace and empower the least among us.

It leads me to only one conclusion: hardworking America deserves a raise. And I’m eager to work with everyone – no matter to whom they pray and even if they are not believers at all – to make it happen.

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec and join the conversation on minimum wage using the hashtag #RaiseTheWage.

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  1. Steve Monetti says:

    The last group of people that should have an input to anything economic are those in the faith community. As much as the Constitution provides for no establishment of religion, each representative of the groups you cite would have their religious views mandated and enforced by the government theoretically opposed to such a notion. As a government official, if you think that participants in an economic system are rewarded for “hard work”, than you will be there when your economic system collapses. Participants in an economic system are rewarded for the “value” that they bring to society, not hard work. It is counterintuitive, but correct. We don’t give strawberry pickers more money (arguable, very hard work) because we don’t want to pay $50/lb for strawberries-strawberries just aren’t that important to us. When the strawberry pickers are out of work because strawberries rise in price, we will then be made to feel bad because we no longer like strawberries and created the unemployed situation. We do however give millions to ball players who are not necessarily bright, don’t work relatively very hard (they get paid to play a game for goodness sake) and are often not the role models we would want them to be. They do however fill stadiums with 100’s of 1000’s who pay $8 for a hot dog, and $7 for a can of coke! Raising the minimum wage is like sentencing the poor to poverty. What the government should be promoting is upward mobility. However, the government is promoting hatred of the rich which will likewise sentence the working poor to poverty-who wants to be what they hate? I’m shocked at the level of non-analysis observed in your comments, your lack of education on basic economic principles, and your feel good instead of behave good type of comments.


    I think and believe that it is absolutely essential to raise the minimum wage. Individuals who are working fulltime jobs should earn enough so that they are not the “working class poor.” Our nation is great and can shoulder this financially.

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