New York bishops back minimum wage boost

.- The Catholic bishops of New York State have called for a “modest increase” in the state’s minimum wage, saying it will help struggling adults that a poor economy has forced into low-paying jobs.

“We don’t pretend to be economists, but we are pastors, and we do oversee the largest nongovernmental network of health, education and charitable ministries in the state,” they said May 3.

“What we can tell you from first-hand experience is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the working poor of our state to make ends meet.”

The New York minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, is proposing to raise the minimum wage to $8.50.

The Republican-controlled State Senate opposes the proposal on the grounds it would hurt the state’s business climate and the employment prospects for poor New Yorkers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has not officially endorsed the proposed hike.

The bishops said the wage increase is “a matter of fairness and justice.”

They noted that a full-time worker paid the minimum wage will bring in $15,080 per year, about $4,000 less than the 2012 federal poverty guidelines for a family of three.

“Our sustained recession and painfully slow recovery have left many of these workers – often people of color and frequently the newest immigrants to our shores who therefore have the fewest support systems – on the brink of homelessness, with not enough in their paychecks to pay for the most basic of necessities, like food, medicine or clothing for their children.”

They noted the argument that minimum wage jobs go “solely” to high school students just entering the workforce, but replied that the statewide unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is pushing older adults into these jobs.

“Workers who previously never would have considered such low-paying jobs are now taking them out of desperation.”

The bishops said they don’t question the motivations of legislators who oppose the minimum wage increase. Rather, they hope and pray for bipartisan action to “address the grave problems facing the lowest wage earners in our state.”

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