A Wage for Living

The demand for economic justice is certainly one of the clearest of all justice stances in the Bible. There are literally thousands of instances that mention the poor, the oppressed, and wages. No mental gymnastics are required to affirm these principles; in fact, it is opponents to fair wages who have to contort themselves to avoid scriptures' plain meaning.

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown joined a statewide coalition of workers, community activists, and faith to announce historic legislation to raise California's minimum wage to $15 per hour. This would make California the first state in the nation to pass a $15 minimum wage. It is not a done deal yet; the California state legislature will still need to pass this bill. Please sign this petition, encouraging them to do so.

People need to earn enough for a decent living. In California at least, a household would need to make $26.65 per hour in order to afford the median-priced two-bedroom apartment. You can see how other states stack up (in my home state of Kentucky, for instance, you only need $13.14). Obviously, different places have different costs of living. It is certainly debatable whether $15 should be a universal wage floor nationwide.

A minimum wage should be no less than half of the median wage in an area. Less than that amount and people fall into what is called "relative poverty," where they are less able to participate meaningfully in their community and are socially excluded. Ethicists and philosophers have noted for centuries that poverty is not solely about having enough money for basic necessities. Relative poverty marginalizes people from forms of civic and cultural life, which weakens democratic institutions and norms, such as voting.

$10 per hour is just enough for a decent life in Paducah, KY, but $15 per hour will still leave you struggling in the Bay Area. Yet in California, as well as other high-priced locales, $15 per hour is a modest proposal to alleviate income inequality. So much more needs to be done, but it is a crucial part of the work for a more equitable society.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 is a good next step for California and expresses the biblical values of giving their fair due to workers.

Again, I encourage you to sign this petition, so that your values can be better expressed in our society.


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