Clergy group pushes indexing for minimum wage compromise

BOSTON, APRIL 10, 2014…..Massachusetts faith leaders are urging legislative negotiators to raise the $8 an hour minimum wage and index it to inflation.

Clergy members visited the State House Thursday to meet with legislative staff, carrying a message to Senate President Therese Murray to remain firm in support of indexing the wage and telling House Speaker Robert DeLeo to adopt the measure that would enable the wage floor to rise with inflation.

“It’s a moral issue for us. We believe it’s a right of dignity for all workers and we believe there are members of our congregations who are behind this bill – and a complete bill and a just bill that includes indexing as well as justice for workers who are on tipped wages,” Rev. Ian Holland of the First Church of Swampscott, Congregational told the News Service.

>>> For a video report on the clergy’s lobbying efforts, go to: <<<

Rev. Jane Soyster Gould, the pastor at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Lynn, said $11 an hour wouldn’t be a living wage, but would make a significant difference to around 500,000 of the state’s lowest-earning workers.

“Poor people, when they get paid more, they spend it. They don’t save it, they don’t have that luxury. I serve a poor and immigrant congregation on the Lynn Common. Folks in my community aren’t making it,” Gould said.

The group of clergy, organized by Massachusetts Faith Voices, are also asking lawmakers to increase the wages of tipped workers to at least 50 percent of the hourly minimum wage.

The House passed a bill last week raising the minimum hourly wage from $8 to $10.50 by July 1, 2016. The Senate passed its wage hike bill in November, setting an $11 wage floor, indexing it to inflation and raising the tipped employees minimum wage to $5.50. The House bill call for a tipped wage of $3.75.

A letter signed by 344 members of the group, all clergy, was delivered to DeLeo on Thursday. In the letter, the clergy told DeLeo that no one who works should be poor.

“Each week, we witness how poverty cripples the lives of our community members,” the letter reads.

The advocates had a meeting scheduled with Murray’s chief of staff Jerome Smith, but were having trouble finding time with DeLeo’s aides, they said. They met with House chief of staff James Eisenberg in January, but a followup meeting didn’t came to pass until the group of priests, rabbis and ministers of several faiths came into the Speaker’s office Thursday afternoon. A meeting was granted soon after which clergy members described as gracious and hospitable.

“We just walked in with a bunch of clergy and that was power. And when we did that, now we have a meeting in a half an hour and that’s just the beginning of the power we can have when we come together,” Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin told supporters after DeLeo’s office said Eisenberg would meet with them.

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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