U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01), presented his plans for a graduated $15 an hour federal minimum wage. Efforts to bolster workers’ wages has long been an area of concern for the Catholic Church globally and in the United States. At a press conference Jan. 14, Bishop Dennis Sullivan offered his support to Rep. Norcross’ goal of increasing the federal minimum wage. The statement was read by Father Robert Hughes, Vicar General of the Diocese of Camden. The bishop’s statement follows:
It should be the goal of every public official, every business owner, and every corporate executive to make available to every employee a fair and sufficient wage. For far too long, the federal minimum wage has forced the typical family of four to exist on earnings that are below the national poverty line. I congratulate Congressman Donald Norcross on his effort to address this unacceptable situation. Congressman Norcross’s incremental method presents an economically-responsible approach that is both sensible and prudent in offering significant help to workers whose only desire is to provide a decent quality of life for themselves and their families.
The Catholic bishops of the United States have long supported increases in the federal minimum wage. But even more so, the Catholic Church has long been a proponent of fair pay. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2434) states “A Just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice,” and that “‘Remuneration for work should guarantee a person the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for themselves and their family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.’”
As Saint John Paul II said in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, “society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings. This requires a continuous effort to improve workers’ training and capability so that their work will be more skilled and productive, as well as careful controls and adequate legislative measures to block shameful forms of exploitation, especially to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable workers…”
There is no greater benefit that we can provide to the workforce than a healthy living wage. Study after study has shown that wage increases significantly improve the viability of families and their ability to offer a nurturing environment to their children. To prevent such opportunities is a sin before both God and humankind.
As the cause for fair wages is discussed, I ask that you recall the recent words of Pope Francis, “At the dawn of creation, God made man the steward of his handiwork and charged him to cultivate and protect it. Human labor is part of that creation and continues God’s creative work.” The Holy Father has gone on to note that labor is “not a mere commodity” but through its use provides “its own inherent dignity and worth.”
We pray that all of our elected officials will carefully consider the benefits of this proposal and ultimately find that the betterment it will provide to so many workers is an opportunity that can no longer be ignored.
Once again, I endorse the effort of our Congressman Donald Norcross to achieve a better wage standard for the people of South Jersey.