Unitarian Universalist Congregations Work to Support a Just Living Wage
Many Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations report that they are active in Living Wage Campaigns. Here are reports from a few.
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists
The Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists had lobbied the City of Berkeley to adopt a Living Wage Ordinance, which was accomplished in 2000: See Living Wage Ordinance Passed in Berkeley Press Release. A ruling by the Federal Appeals Court for the 9th Circuit confirmed broad powers to protect the working poor:
See Federal Appeals Court Upholds Berkeley Living Wage Law. Despite an attempt to repeal the law, it stands.
First Universalist Church in Minneapolis
First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, MN, was involved with Isaiah, a congregation-based community organization, in promoting a Living Wage Campaign in Minneapolis that passed the city council on November 4, 2005. Isaiah is still working on passing this ordinance in St. Paul, and efforts are underway in Minneapolis to promote a community benefits agreement, led by First Universalist efforts.
River Road Unitarian Church, Bethesda
River Road Unitarian Church, Bethesda, Maryland's Social Justice Council passed the following Resolution in support of Living Wage statutes in 1999:
That the congregation of River Road Unitarian Church wishes to go on record as supporting the adoption in Montgomery County and in the State of Maryland of "Living Wage" statutes, under which private entities receiving public money from the County or State, as the case may be, under contracts or subsidies would be required to pay each of their employees a "living wage".
The congregation also supports that its own expenses should be governed by "living wage" requirements, for its own employees, and for contractors, to the extent practically feasible and insofar as can be determined without undue difficulty.
It is understood that "living wage" is defined for the present purposes as a minimum hourly pay in the range of $10.40 to $10.50 at the present time. (It was announced at the meeting that an hourly rate of $7.50 plus health benefits was also considered a "living wage." (That equals $21,000 or $1,750 per month without health insurance or $15,000 or $1,250 per month with health insurance. And of course we are not talking about take-home pay here. Social security, medicare and income tax would still have to come out of this salary.)
River Road's Minister of Religious Education, Ginger Luke, offered her compelling sermon, "Why No Living Wage?" (PDF, 7 pages), which won the Skinner Sermon Award, at the 2000 UUA General Assembly.
The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus
The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, OH, worked the need for affordable housing into its Christmas Eve Service, as minister Mark Belletini told the story of the young girl Mariah, her boyfriend Joey, and their expected baby.
First Unitarian Church in St. Louis
First Unitarian Church in St. Louis, MO, is working on an interfaith event around the need for a Living Wage which will occur this winter. The Rev. Suzanne Meyer, minister of the church, reports, “We had a meeting last night of the interfaith group of which I am president and we are now trying to put together a coalition of the other two larger Interfaith groups in the area.” Participant organizations will include Jobs With Justice and All God's People and Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice.
The Unitarian Society of Germantown
The Unitarian Society of Germantown will join with Main Line Unitarian and other groups to make and distribute lunches to needy homeless shelters and community centers in Philadelphia. After the food distribution is completed, the group will assemble for a skit based on Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed which illustrates the plight of a woman struggling to live on minimum wage. Participants will sign a petition to be sent to Pennsylvania 's lawmakers, urging immediate passage of an increased minimum, and launch a letter writing campaign to the Congress to raise the wage nationally.