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Faith Leaders From Across the City Demand Fair Wages Act

November 17, 2010
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Deliver Thousands of Postcards to City Council in Favor of Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

Today, clergy members from throughout the city led a silent procession of congregations, community groups and union members to demand the City Council pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. They delivered thousands of postcards signed by their parishioners in support of the Act.

“If developers and the rich benefit from our tax dollars, they should pay a wage that allows people to live with dignity, be able to feed their family and provide a safe, clean place to live,” said Rev. Jesse T. Williams of the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem. “It is a fundamental issue of social justice,” he added.

“By paying a living wage, we would allow all our residents the opportunity to improve their quality of life,” said Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman of Antioch Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

Today’s procession sprang from the Living Wage Weekend (10.10.10), when 80 faith leaders included the moral message of economic justice in their services and thousands of congregants signed postcards to their City Council Members. The postcards call for the City Council to take a stand for economic justice and pass the Act. Twenty-eight (28) City Council Members have signed on in support of the bill.

"I am distressed by the number of our parishioners who are behind in their rent, deep in debt and working second jobs to try to catch up. Their children suffer from the lack of attention, the neighborhood suffers from unsupervised teenagers on the streets. Low wage jobs are a cancer in our community. City money must go toward creating jobs that pay a living wage," said Rev. Doug Cunningham of New Day United Methodist Church in the Bronx.

The bill has growing support from the faith community and has been endorsed by such influential groups as Clergy United for Community Empowerment, Queens Federation of Churches, and The Baptist Ministers' Conference for Greater New York and Vicinity.

“We are in the moral fight because the time is now to raise the quality of living for the working poor,” said Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in the Village.

“Our challenge is to make our city just for all to live in.The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act helps make that happen,” said Imam El Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque for Islamic Brotherhood.

Every year New York City spends approximately two billion taxpayer dollars, according to the latest available data, to subsidize development and create jobs. Too often the jobs created with these public subsidies pay poverty wages with no benefits -- whether it's retail and stockroom jobs at shopping centers, mailroom jobs in office buildings, or food service jobs at stadiums.

The Living Wage NYC coalition is gearing up for a citywide day of action for living wages to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which will take place on Jan. 13, 2011.

More than 45 cities have enacted such legislation and have found that these policies create quality jobs for local residents without slowing economic growth or preventing economic development. New York City is behind the times on this issue and, as a result, publicly subsidized developments are keeping people in poverty-wage jobs, rather than providing them with opportunities to get ahead. For more information on the Living Wage NYC campaign, visit http://www.livingwagenyc.org.