[Release] Moral Monday 3.21.16 - $15 Wage is a Moral Imperative

PRESS RELEASE FOR:Monday, March 21, 2016

CONTACT: Emily McNeill

Press Conference - 12:00, NYS Capitol, War Room

Faith leaders: $15 wage is moral imperative, must not be delayed

Multifaith group delivers petition signed by 125 clergy calling on legislature not to back down on $15 minimum statewide

Albany (March 21, 2016) -

Dozens of clergy gathered at the Capitol for a ‘Moral Monday’ press conference and vigil, calling on the state legislature to pass an increase in the minimum wage to $15 statewide as part of the New York State budget, which is due April 1. They also delivered a petition to legislative leaders signed by 125 faith leaders from across New York.

“We’re concerned by reports that the legislature is considering a smaller or slower minimum wage increase than the Governor has proposed. We’re here to remind our elected officials that how our society values workers is a moral issue. Keeping the minimum wage at a level where even a full-time worker can’t make ends meet is unacceptable,” said the Rev. Emily McNeill of the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition.

More than 3 million workers in New York State make less than $15 an hour, and over a third live in or near poverty, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

"The poor have made more compromises than any lawmaker can imagine,” said the Rev. Peter Cook, executive director of the New York State Council of Churches. “Wages have not come close to keeping pace with the escalating cost of living in New York over the last decade. The proposal to phase in a $15 wage for New York City by 2018 and the rest of the state by 2021 is compromise enough. The poor can't wait any more."

In 1986, the Catholic Bishops of the United States underscored that ‘the economy is for the people, not the people for the economy.’ We indicated that workers deserve a living wage which enables them and their families to have their basic human needs met. Unfortunately, the present minimum wage does not meet that standard,” said Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Albany.

“It is a moral imperative that members of the legislature pass the $15 minimum wage proposed by the Governor. The dignity of working families and the revival of our state’s economy depend upon it.” “Our congregations are on the front lines of addressing the crises faced by the working poor in our communities,” said Angela Warner, director of St. Vincent de Paul Church’s Food Pantry in Albany.

“Day after day we serve people who work as many hours as they can get and yet rely on our pantry to feed their families. When we started 30 years ago, we never imagined we’d be filling this role, but with wages so low families have nowhere else to turn.”

A dozen faith leaders from New York City traveled to the Capitol to participate in the Moral Monday vigil and also called on the legislature to implement a $15 minimum wage statewide.

"Poverty among working families is a problem throughout our state,” said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-director of the Kairos Center for Rights, Religions and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan. “My concern is not just that wages are too low in New York City, where I live, but that they are too low in Buffalo and Syracuse and Binghamton, too.  All New Yorkers need and deserve a living wage."

“Many of our mothers and fathers in our congregations need to hold two jobs to pay for food and shelter with no time to raise their children. Low wages keep our families in poverty,” said Imam Suleimane Konate of Harlem. “Our faiths tell us to be just. We are fed up with politics as usual. We need social and economic justice, and as faith leaders, we are calling on civic and elected officials to stand with us.”

Read Albany Presbyter Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo's Prayer for Salvation.

Read New York State Council of Churches Executive Director Rev. Peter Cook's full statement.