WASHINGTON—Adiscussion of workers' wages is a good starting point for fixing the U.S.economy, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops'Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in testimony, June 25,before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Thecommittee's hearing was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Fair LaborStandards Act, which codified the national minimum wage for the first time.
"Wecan begin the process of fixing our economy by returning the worker to thecenter of economic life," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton,California, in his testimony. "One of the best ways to do that is with decentjobs that pay just wages, thereby honoring human dignity and restoring hope toworkers and families. Increasing the minimum wage to a level that reflects thereal economic reality faced by families today would go far in building aneconomy worthy of the humans that operate in it."
BishopBlaire said the Working Poor Families Project recently reported that there were10.4 million low-income working families in 2011, including 23.5 millionchildren. "Workshould be a ladder out of poverty for families, it should not trap them inpoverty," said Bishop Blaire. "Yet this is where we find ourselves – a growingnumber of families are working but do not make enough to live in dignity. It isa scandal that the richest country world has allowed over 23 million childrenin working poor families to become the norm."
Bishop Blaire cited statistics fromthe Congressional Budget Office, which reported last year that the averageincome of the wealthiest one percent of Americans has increased 275 percentover the last 30 years. The income of the poorest 20 percent, on average,increased by less than 20 percent, despite an increase in worker productivityover the same time.
Bishop Blaire quoted Catholicteaching from Popes Leo XIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, on therights and dignity of workers. "A just wage confirms the dignity of the worker,"said Bishop Blaire. "And conversely, a wage that does not even allow a workerto support a family or meet basic human needs tears her down and demeans herdignity. The worker becomes just another commodity."
More information on the hearing andBishop Blaire's testimony is available online: www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=6edc1440-5056-a032-52fa-28728f8b3947
Keywords: Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, minimum wage, U.S.Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Domestic Justice andHuman Development, USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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