Faith leaders say it’s time to pay families a wage that meets basic needs and stop subsidizing the industry’s low wages
Albany, NY – Faith leaders from across the state came together at the State Capitol on Thursday to call on Governor Cuomo’s Wage Board to back a $15 minimum wage for cooks and cashiers in the fast food industry.
Faith groups including the New York State Council of Churches and the Labor-Religion Coalition released a letter signed by more than 200 religious leaders asking the board to seize the historic opportunity to ensure 165,000 fast-food workers in New York are paid a wage that meets basic needs.
“As clergy and faith leaders from throughout New York State,” the letter begins, “we urge you to end the immoral practice of multi-billion dollar fast food companies paying poverty wages to the workers of our state.”
The faith groups were joined outside the Dunkin’ Donuts in the State Capitol building by local fast-food workers who are part of the nationwide Fight for $15 movement, including Jacquie Jordan, a McDonald’s employee in Albany.
"Seeing the support from the community for us means a lot. I'm not giving up until we win $15 and a union,” said Jordan. “The Wage Board can make a $15 wage a reality in New York and make sure the billion-dollar fast food industry pays a wage I can sustain a family on. And it's great to know that there are leaders in my community who are in this fight with me."
Rev. Paula Gravelle, Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches, said: "Multi-billion dollar corporations paying poverty wages not only weighs on our economy, it weighs on our conscience. How can we ask our brothers and sisters to serve us on wages which we know can't provide for their basic needs? Across the state my colleagues in ministry are seeing how this injustice hurts our families and communities - and that's why over 200 of us have signed on to support workers' calls for $15."
Rev. Joseph Cleveland, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs said: "Poverty-level wages are not just a problem in urban areas. Where I serve in Saratoga Springs we also see the effects of poverty and inequality,despite our city's relative wealth. The struggle of these fast food workers for a decent living is a struggle for all of our communities, whether urban, suburban or rural, upstate or downstate, east or west.I am proud to join my colleagues and courageous fast food workers everywhere in calling for $15."
Rabbi Dan Ornstein of Albany, NY said: "Jewish tradition is clear on the moral obligation for employers to pay their workers a fair wage. A fair wage in today's society is one that provides for a worker's basic needs, and the current wage of $8.75 clearly does not meet that standard. The fast food wage board is a momentous opportunity to raise the wage for some of New York's lowest paid workers employed by corporations with money to spare. I join my colleagues of many faiths in calling for the wage board to raise the wages of fast food workers to $15, and I pray that this will be a first step in winning living wages for all New York workers."
Deacon Walter Ayres, Director of Catholic Charities Commission on Peace and Justice, said: "As representatives of various faith traditions, we are here to say that work is more than just a job; it is a reflection of our human dignity and a way to contribute to the common good. A living wage is a moral issue, which is why more than 200 clergy from all faiths across the state support $15 an hour."
Angela Warner, Director of Social Witness, Church of St. Vincent de Paul, said: "Many of our guests at the food pantry I direct are the working poor. They have jobs but aren't paid enough to be self-sufficient. We work hard to meet their immediate needs for food, but we know this is not a real solution. Working people should not need our food pantry to survive. I support workers calling for $15 an hour because I want our pantry to be put out of business."
Rev. McKinley Johnson, President, Albany African American Clergy United for Empowerment, said: "The simple fact is $8.75 is not enough to live on. You can't keep food on the table for your family. Can't afford monthly bills. Can't pay for school supplies for your kids. It's not right. If McDonald's can make $5.5 billion dollars in profits every year, they can pay their employees a decent wage of $15."