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HB 1: Workers’ Wages Must Allow Them to Form and Support Families20 Jan

green-update-button-thOn Feb. 6 the Kentucky House of Representatives passed HB1 by a bi-partisan vote of 54 – 44 and sent it to the Senate. The Senate assigned it to the Sen. State and Local Government committee on Feb. 12. The Senate has taken no further action on the bill.

Last June, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, testified before the U. S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about repairing the economy by returning the worker to its center. He said:

One of the best ways to do that is with decent jobs that pay just wages, thereby honoring human dignity and restoring hope to workers and families. Increasing the minimum wage to a level that reflects the real economic reality faced by families today would go far in building an economy worthy of the humans that operate in it.

A just wage is a living wage. Passage of HB 1 would bring workers closer to receiving a just wage.

ACTION NEEDED NOW: The Conference encourages Catholics to contact their Senators at 1.800.372.7181 and leave a message for the chairman of the committee, Sen. Joe Bowen, and the Sen. Republican leadership which urges them to allow the bill to come to the floor for a full debate and vote on its merits.

Continue to use the background information below to learn more about both the need for this bill and why it is of importance to the Catholic community in promoting human dignity and providing the means whereby hard working men and women can earn enough to feed, house, clothe families and meet their other financial obligations.

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House Bill 1 – SUPPORT -  HB 1 raises the state minimum wage to $8.10 per hour on July 1, 2014, $9.15 per hour on July 1, 2015, and $10.10 per hour on July 1, 2016.

ACTION NEEDED: Ask your Representative to co-sponsor HB 1 and vote YES when it comes to the floor. Urge him/her to vote NO on amendments NOT approved by the sponsor.

The Kentucky Bishops have adopted a statement – The Dignity of Work - to encourage support for passage of legislation that provides for a just wage for workers.

BACKGROUND:

In a recent letter to U. S. Senators, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA pointed out that

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “a just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. . . . [It] should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level ” (no. 2434).

The current federal minimum wage falls short of this standard for its failure to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families.

Since the federal and Kentucky minimum wage is currently the same, the Catholic Conference takes note of this injustice and supports HB 1 as a necessary step in guaranteeing the worker “the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood.” As we wrote in 2006 when the minimum wage issue was last debated:

Catholic social teaching insists that workers receive  a  just  wage,  defined  as  the  amount needed to meet the minimum needs of a family, a  wage  often  described as  a  living  wage,  an amount that generally exceeds the minimum wage.

Beginning with Pope Leo XIII’s landmark 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, recent pontiffs have referred to the right to a just wage as a question of social justice.

Noting the obligation of every individual to ensure “the preservation of life,” Pope Leo said “it necessarily follows that every individual has a natural right to procure what is necessary to live; and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through  their  work.”  And, he said, “public authority” has the “strict duty” of providing for the welfare of workers,  because  a  failure to do so violates justice.

Pope John Paul  II  reaffirmed what Pope Leo said in his 1991 encyclical, “The Hundredth Year.” John Paul wrote: “Society and the state must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings.”

To see the economic impact raising the State minimum wage would have on more than 400,000 Kentuckians read this report by Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Progress. Using data published by the Economic Policy Institute, Bailey concludes,

“A minimum wage increase is an especially important policy right now because continued high unemployment is putting downward pressure on wages, making it particularly difficult for workers to meet their families’ needs.”

As he told the Courier-Journal:

” These are folks who are working hard every day, but they are not making enough for their families to make ends meet,” said Jason Bailey, director of the center. “We are talking about real benefits to the bottom line of families in a very tough time.”

What Archbishop Wenski and Fr. Snyder said to the U. S. Senate is equally true at the state level:

A full-year, full-time worker making the minimum wage does not make enough money to raise a child free from poverty. Because the minimum wage is a static number and does not change, each year it becomes more difficult for workers making the minimum wage to survive. . . . Workers deserve a just wage that allows them to live in dignity, form and support families, and contribute to the common good.

To contact your State Representative call 1.800.372.71811.800.372.7181 and leave the ACTION message at the top of this post.

Please speak with your fellow parishioners and friends and encourage their participation in this effort to provide our brothers and sisters a just wage. Use the links below to share it on Facebook and other social media. Thank you.

Photo: Service Employees International Union

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