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Advancing the Fair-Wage Movement
In the United States, more than 28 million people, about a quarter of the workforce between the ages of 18 and 64, are minimum wage workers — earning less than the poverty level for their families. Nearly two thirds are women, and almost one third of those women are raising children.
A full-time minimum wage job covers, on average, only 34 percent of a family's basic costs of living.
Meanwhile, U.S. corporate profits increased 21 percent in 2007 and worker productivity grew by 111 percent. According to Market Watch, "Profits have been so high because almost all of the benefits from productivity improvements are flowing to the owners of capital rather than to the workers."
Raising the minimum wage above poverty level is perhaps the most effective instrument for combating poverty and supporting the human rights of children, women, and people of color in the United States. No other single issue or movement can so directly improve the lives of the working poor in this country.
But just wages don't just make economic sense, they make ethical sense.
On the basis of our faith and our basic commitment to human dignity, UUSC is working with Let Justice Roll and other groups to improve the equation for working families.
Let Justice Roll
UUSC colleague organization Let Justice Roll is a nonpartisan coalition of more than 90 faith, community, labor, and business organizations dedicated to the principle that "a job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it."
Let Justice Roll has played a key role in making wages a values issue and a moral issue. As a broad-based coalition, Let Justice Roll reaches across partisan lines, bringing together all groups: religious and secular; faith based, community based, labor, business people; liberal and conservative; all who believe that workers deserve a living wage; and all who believe that it is immoral that workers who care for children, the ill, and the elderly struggle to care for their own families.
This is not about political parties. It's this year's values voter issue. In recent years, numerous bipartisan polls have shown growing public support, with over 80 percent of those polled favoring a wage increase. People are aghast that so many hard workers are working and living in this situation. We expect this issue will bring out people who don't always vote, and this is good for democracy.
Through events like "Living Wage Days," rallies, and worship services, Let Justice Roll brought the varying dimensions of this issue to the fore and people responded.
At mid-term elections in November 2006, Let Justice Roll helped win landslide victories for ballot initiatives that achieved minimum-wage increases in six states: Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Arizona. Earlier increases had been achieved through legislative action in states as diverse as Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina,Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
UUSC members and volunteers have been integral to the success of these grassroots campaigns, whose cumulative victories helped catalyze in July 2007 the first raise in the federal minimum wage in 10 years.
With UUSC support, Let Justice Roll continues its work by supporting living-wage organizing inGeorgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and strategizing about raising the federal minimum wage to a real living wage.