Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Op-Ed Piece – 29 November 2015 – Living Wage … a Moral Imperative


Living Wage in N.Y. … a Moral Imperative [1]

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.


  1. Albany Times Union – Perspective Section – November 29, 2015 – Page D1

Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

2 thoughts on “Op-Ed Piece – 29 November 2015 – Living Wage … a Moral Imperative

  1. Dick

    I trust you recognize the minimum wage of $15/hr. will be a gradual process (as it has been for years) to that rate by 2021 (ie. $9 in 2016 then $10, $11, $12, $13 then $14 in 2020). The $9/hr. rate is already scheduled for 2016. I fear that many people who successfully protested for this increase, including Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, will recognize the possible negative economic impact of this. I was happy to read of Gov. Cuomo’s support of such an increase across the board for all workers. I fear, perhaps needlessly, that businesses, municipalities and other employers affected by this process will cut hours, lay off workers, etc. to circumvent this minimum wage; making the misery of low paying workers much worse. I personally witnessed this kind of action many years back when a bargaining unit successfully negotiated a wage increase for cafeteria workers at a local college. Management turned around and promptly cut hours once the wage increase took effect. Perhaps such an action is illegal today.

    I am not unsympathetic to the misery of low paying workers who are unable to earn a living wage but unfortunately there’s no quick fix for the living wage issue that satisfies all involved. No political action pleases everyone.


  2. This might be of interest to you. A chart of minimum wages from 1938 to 2012 courtesy the Dept. of Labor.


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