AFTER A SUCCESSFUL VOTE TO MOVE FORWARD ON THE MINIMUM WAGE --- KENNEDY, COLLEAGUES JOIN RELIGIOUS LEADERS TO PUSH FOR FINAL PASSAGE
Today following the successful cloture vote, Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Richard Durbin, Tom Harkin, Sherrod Brown joined leaders in the religious community for a press conference on the urgency and moral obligation of paying America's workers a fair wage. While poverty rates continued to skyrocket, Congress left working-class families behind by failing to raise the minimum wage yet continuing to raise their own congressional salaries. The religious leaders from different faiths spoke about the ways in which our stagnant minimum wage has affected their communities.
"We are a nation of diverse faiths, but one tenet that underlies every religion is that the exploitation of the poor to profit the rich is wrong," Senator Kennedy said. "Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic issue. It's a fairness issue, and it's a moral issue. It's not just about a paycheck. It's about a just paycheck."
The Senators were joined by Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners, Dr. Bob Edgar head of the National Council of Churches, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Reverend Romal J. Tune, Director of the Clergy Strategic Alliance.
Below are Senator Kennedy's full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
STATEMENT BY SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
MINIMUM WAGE EVENT WITH RELIGIOUS LEADERS
(as Prepared for Delivery)
Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic issue. It's a fairness issue, and it's a moral issue.
It's not just about a paycheck. It's about a just paycheck.
What's going on today with low-wage workers is plain wrong. They are hard-working people trying to raise their families in dignity. But they are being exploited to boost corporate profits.
We are a nation of diverse faiths, but one tenet that underlies every religion is that the exploitation of the poor to profit the rich is wrong.
It is wrong that our productivity and profits soar while hardworking people struggle to put food on the table and heat their homes. It is wrong to give billions upon billions of dollars in tax relief to the wealthy, but turn your backs on the hard-working families who live in poverty each day, and the 14 million children who go to bed hungry each night.
In my own faith, nothing is more clearly written in the scriptures. I was raised on the words of St. Matthew's Gospel, that "whatever you have done unto the least of my brethren, you have done unto me."
It's time for Congress and the White House to heed those words. They've done a lot for the wealthy and powerful. Now it's time to do something for the poor and for average citizens. It's time to stop filibustering an increase in the minimum wage.
That's why so many religious groups have joined the fight for a higher minimum wage. More than 1,000 religious leaders signed a letter to Congress expressing their support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
These leaders are "morally outraged by the number of people living in poverty in the United States, and believe that now is the time to give hard-working low-wage workers a raise and take the first step toward a true living wage for America's workers."
The Republican leadership likes to talk about values. But values aren't worth much if we don't act on them.
We can't wait a minute longer to do what's right for America's working families. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's Children. Now is the time to raise the minimum wage for millions of Americans.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of [people] willing to be co-workers with God." Today, we are joined by four great leaders who have been co-workers with God in the fight for fair wages, and I thank them for being here.