Living Wage in N.Y. … a Moral Imperative 
Low-wage workers across the country have been pressing for a $15 minimum wage and union rights. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stated that he will push to phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage across New York.
While there are differing viewpoints about how a minimum wage increase will impact the economy, the heart of the debate is not an economic disagreement. It is a moral one. There is a more fundamental question is: “Who in our society deserves to live a decent life?”
As a Catholic priest, I believe all people deserve a decent life. My church is not alone in its teachings that all creation, all life, has value. Christians are in accord with other faith traditions and with people who do not adhere to a religious belief system in this matter. We share an uncompromising commitment to uphold the inherent dignity of all human beings.
Tragically, the way our economy is currently structured, millions of New Yorkers find themselves stuck in poverty with no access to a basic standard of living. According to the Department of Labor, a single adult in New York State needs to make $15.91 per hour at a full time job to provide for themselves. Almost half of working New Yorkers make less than that, and almost 2 million make the minimum wage of $8.75 or just above that.
Those of us who believe in the dignity of all people should take offense at these numbers. In our society, wages are the primary means to a decent life. In 1963 Pope John XXIII wrote that all human beings have the right to bodily integrity and to the means required for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest and necessary social services. Pope Francis has reiterated these rights. But millions of New Yorkers instead can only find jobs that keep them in poverty or near poverty.
The issue of income inequality is not about supporting any political or religious ideology. It is not even about socialism vs. capitalism. It is about a moral imperative to provide all workers with a wage that can enable individuals and families to live with dignity. It is time for the minimum wage to be a living wage for all workers all across New York State.
- Albany Times Union – Perspective Section – November 29, 2015 – Page D1