Celebrate the Birthday of the Minimum Wage: Send a Letter to the Editor!

The following post was originally featured on the blog of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness.

“Before those days there were no wages… But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the LORD of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace.”
Zechariah 8:10-12

bdaycake2This Friday, we sing a joyous ‘Happy 76th Birthday’ to the U.S. federal minimum wage! [1] As we celebrate how God has blessed us through the fulfillment of vocation and the dignity of work, we also know that many people labor in jobs that do not pay a just wage. The federal minimum wage for the  past 76 years has been instrumental in providing a wage floor, a guide to help employers treat workers fairly and offer a just wage. But even as we celebrate the minimum wage’s birthday, we also pray for a raise in the wage to $10.10 per hour. The current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour traps workers and their families in cycles of poverty. As Christians, we are compelled to advocate for justice for the lowest-earners in our society and raising the wage would lift just under one million people out of poverty.

Will you send a letter to the editor of your local paper asking Congress to raise the wage?

At the beginning of the Great Depression, there was no minimum wage. Just like today, the disparity between the rich and poor had grown in the Roaring 20’s. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 established the minimum wage not only to mitigate this injustice, but also to spur economic growth by increasing low wage-earners’ purchasing power. The minimum wage was first set at 25 cents an hour, to be raised to 40 cents the following year.

minimum-wage-ieMany of the arguments against the institution of a minimum wage are still being used today. In the Congressional debate on the Fair Labor Standards Act, Rep. John McClellan of Arkansas inquired what difference a minimum wage law would make “if [a worker] then lose the opportunity to work.” Similarly today, many of our legislators oppose a raise in the wage, saying it would kill jobs.

McClellan’s concerns fell flat. After the institution of the minimum wage, along with other social programs of the New Deal, unemployment decreased from 19% in 1938 to 1.2% in 1944. It helped bring the nation out of the Great Depression.

Be a voice in your community for raising the wage!

Since 1968, the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation as the gap between rich and poor has continued to grow. The 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 would be worth $10.86 in today’s dollars.

It’s time to raise the wage. Take local action today.

We have found much hope in state legislative efforts to raise the wage. States that raised their minimum wage in 2014 saw faster job growth than those that didn’t. [2] Moreover, raising the wage would allow 1.7 million Americans to transition off of government assistance programs. [3]

As God has blessed us with work and vocation, let us rejoice in the dignity of all those who labor. We celebrate the great gains that the worker has made with the help of the minimum wage over the past 76 years and we pray for a raise in the federal minimum wage to $10.10. It would be a great blessing of justice and peace to workers, to our government’s budget, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole.


[1] Congressional Budget Office. The Effect of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Income. http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44995. 18 Feb, 2014.
[2] Wolcott, Ben. 2014 Job Creation Faster in States that Raised the Minimum Wage. http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/2014-job-creation-in-states-that-raised-the-minimum-wage/. Center for Economic and Policy Research. 30 June 2014.
[3] Cooper, David. Report: Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 would Save Safety Net Programs Billions and Help Ensure Businesses Are Doing Their Fair Share. http://www.epi.org/press/raising-minimum-wage-1-7-million-workers/. Economic Policy Institute. 16 Oct, 2014

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