Let Justice Roll hails new state victories, tell Congress to heed will of people and raise minimum wage now

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May 9 2007

Washington, DC -- As the federal minimum wage remains stuck at a miserly $5.15 an hour, momentum continues to build in the states. Last week, New Hampshire joined Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and New Mexico in enacting legislation since the Nov. election to raise minimum wages. Let Justice Roll, a nonpartisan coalition of more than 90 faith and community organizations, is calling on Congress to represent their constituents and raise the federal minimum wage now.

After a decade without a raise, the value of today's federal minimum wage is lower than it was in 1950. Minimum wage bills passed the House and Senate and compromise legislation was attached to the recently vetoed Iraq Supplemental.

"Stop playing politics with the lives of millions of low-wage workers and their families," Let Justice Roll says in a Letter to Congress. "A minimum wage raise deserves to move forward on its own merits. It is time to send a stand-alone minimum wage bill to the President for signing."

The states have led the way. Iowa's minimum wage rose from $5.15 to $6.20 on Apr. 1 and will reach $7.25 on Jan. 1, 2008. Illinois's minimum rises from $6.50 to $7.50 on Jul. 1 and reaches $8.25 in 2010. New Mexico's minimum rises from $5.15 to $6.50 on Jan. 1, 2008 and $7.50 on Jan. 1, 2009. Kentucky's minimum wage will rise to $5.85 on Jul. 1 and reach $7.25 in 2009.

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Kemper, Let Justice Roll steering committee member and executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, said, "We have been waiting for Washington to act and again it has stalled. The minimum wage is not just a matter of economics, but it is a values issue. There is a floor below which it is unjust and immoral to pay someone for their labor."

New Hampshire's minimum will rise to $6.50 on Sep. 1 and $7.25 in 2008. In his May 3 signing statement, Gov. John Lynch praised Martha Yager of the American Friends Service Committee and Let Justice Roll "for working tirelessly on this issue."

Yager said, "This is a significant step towards the point where a full time job will keep you out of poverty, not in it."

Even if enacted in mid-May, the first-step increase in the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $5.85 would not happen until mid-July. The second step to $6.55 wouldn't happen until July 2008. America's poorest workers would wait until July 2009 for the long-promised raise to $7.25.

"Each day a minimum wage raise is not enacted is another day a family spends working harder and falling further behind," the Let Justice Roll Letter to Congress says.

More than 650 business owners and executives from every state have also urged an increased minimum wage, writing, "We know that a fair wage floor is essential to healthy businesses and communities, and enduring economic growth." The statement and growing list of signatories is available at the Business for Shared Prosperity website, http://www.businessforafairminimumwage.org.