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Mass. bishops urge increase to minimum wage

Posted By March 20, 2014 | 12:50 pm | Local
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BOSTON – Stating that “insufficient compensation for labor violates the dignity of the worker and that worker’s family,” the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts said in a statement this week that they support an increase in the minimum wage.
They said that the current minimum wage “is insufficient to support and uphold the dignity of individuals and families.”
They said the current minimum wage of $8 per hour would yield $16,640 before taxes for a person working full time.
“This is hardly enough to pay for basic necessities such as food and rent, let alone support a family,” they wrote. “Because of this, many families find it difficult to afford basic needs and are forced to pursue multiple low- wage jobs in search of financial survival and a small sense of stability.”
The bishops did not specify what they think the minimum wage should be. They said they “do not pretend to be economists and thus leave it to those more knowledgeable in that area to determine a just wage for the lowest-paid worker. In determining that level of compensation, the concerns of small and family-owned businesses must be considered as well.”
The bishops said that the Catholic Church is among the largest social service providers in Massachusetts and its ministries have seen low-wage earners who often are trapped in the “desperate cycle of poverty.”
“Pope Francis has recently reiterated that ‘the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.’ Any economic policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be informed by the inherent dignity of every capable man and woman working for the betterment of their own livelihood and that of their family and society,” they wrote.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo proposed incrementally raising the state’s minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10.50 an hour by the middle of 2016. President Obama is pushing Congress to pass a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. Raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour would give an automatic raise to an estimated 16.5 million workers, according to a Feb. 18 Congressional Budget Office study.
It’s a moral issue, according to Thom Shellabarger, a former domestic policy adviser to the U.S. bishops who is now a Washington-based public policy associate for Interfaith Worker Justice. In 1982, CEO pay in the United States was about 42 times what their employees made on average, Shellabarger said. “And in 2012, just a few years ago, the last number I recall it’s now over 400-to-1, 440-to-1. That type of movement further and further off the norm distorts the whole economic picture, particularly if you know that wages for the average family are flat and have been going down (in real terms) since 1982.”
The bishops urged the state legislature to “address this growing concern  this session.”
The statement was published by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy office of the Massachusetts bishops. It was signed by Bishop McManus, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM, Archbishop of Boston; Bishop George W. Coleman of Fall River, and Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield.