Labor Day Hypocrisy

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At the current rate, a minimum-wage employee who works 40-hours a week earns $10,700 per year. For a single parent with two children, that amount is thousands of dollars below the federal poverty line. Federal minimum wage in this country has not changed for 10 years!

(President Bush should fight for increased minimum wage).

Each year, America boldly celebrates Labor Day, but I wonder how often we really celebrate hard working Americans. 

Does Labor Day mean anything to us anymore? Is it just another three day weekend for those of us who get paid for holidays and can afford to work less than seven days a week? It's a mixed message. We value and appreciate "working Americans" but we continue to delay paying them a living wage. Federal minimum wage in this country has not changed for 10 years! What are we waiting for?

We all know how much the cost of living has gone up over the last 10 years. It is no secret that the cost for basic human needs has not gone down or even stayed the same. At the current rate, a minimum-wage employee who works 40-hours a week earns $10,700 per year. For a single parent with two children, that amount is thousands of dollars below the federal poverty line.

We want everyone who can to work, but we expect minimum wage workers to pay for food, housing, child care and health care, on $5.15 per hour. I agree with Holly Sklar and Rev. Paul Sherry of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, and declaration: "A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it. Raising the minimum wage is an economic imperative for the enduring strength of our workforce, businesses, communities and economy.

Raising the minimum wage is a moral imperative for the very soul of our nation." We often hear that America's great legacy and strength is based on a hard work ethic. We say we want all Americans to have a job and contribute to the economic well-being of this nation. But it seems that we do not want to pay for it. As I listen to the debate in the U.S. Congress on the Fair Minimum Wage Act, I wonder if some of our political leaders heard about Labor Day. I wonder if they realize that millions of hard working Americans, those that have jobs, cannot pay the rent or feed their families on $5.15 per hour.

I really do not understand what the minimum wage bill has to do with tax breaks for America's most wealthy.  Have we come to the place in our country where every effort to support the most vulnerable must be compromised to include some benefit for the rich? Today, many Congress people are trying to do the right thing. They are trying to convince their colleagues to offer a "clean" minimum wage bill that addresses this crisis for low wage workers. The 192 members of the House of Representatives need our congratulations, but they still need 26 more House members to sign on to keep minimum wage and tax breaks separate. Call your Representative at 1-888-355-3588 to urge them to support a clean bill. This Labor Day, let's celebrate a holiday that means something.

Let's honor hard working Americans by supporting them with more than words. We urge you to join the American Friends Services Committee and the National Council of Churches USA in the "Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign." (See www.letjusticeroll.org).  Together we can change the mixed message to a unified voice, a voice that supports America's lowest paid worker. 

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