“Living Wage For All”-14 Congregations Lift their Voices
in Public Witness
During the month of June, fourteen congregations in eight denominations lifted banners onto their houses of worship with the message, “LivingWage For All.”
Members from the different congregations gathered at Seattle City Hall on June 5th, for a blessing of the banners and then walked to Plymouth Church-UCC to unveil one of the first banners.
Many of the congregations lifted their banners the same week that Seattle passed a $15/hour minimum wage ordinance. At one level the banners celebrate the worker led community organizing that was paramount for such a historic achievement for low-wage workers in Seattle and across the nation.
In the blessing of the banners, Rev. Brandon Duran of Plymouth Church described the banners at a deeper level, as “proclamations, bold statements that speak of identity and passion. The banners we claim today speak of our desire to manifest a visionbroader than a single piece of legislation. We know $15 is a good step but this is about so much more.”
Barbara Peterman of University Unitarian Church also echoed this sentiment in her comment that, “the work for all that a living wage entails is really just beginning. The banners are one part celebration and five parts diligence.”
The Living Wage banners represent a congregation’s commitment to engage in education and advocacy for a living wage. This commitment invites congregations to look internally at their own living wage practices and to also be engaged in advocacy in the public sphere.
Don Bell, a member of Plymouth Church, summarizes a living wage as a value of justice in achieving the Kingdom of God on earth where “everybody is to have the material essentials of life.” From Bell’s perspective, “the times demand the active response of people of faith.”
The idea for the Living Wage banners originated from Darel Grothaus, an active member of the Living Wage Working Group of the Church Council and a former city development planner. For Grothaus, displaying banners on the sides of houses of worship are strategic locations and “extraordinary platforms to encourage public awareness about the moral and faith dimension of a living wage.” He points out that “thousands of eyes, minds and hearts pass by our houses of worship every week.”
The idea of displaying banners was brought into fruition by a coordinated effort from members of the Living Wage Working Group that spanned several months of brainstorming, planning, and outreach. Outreach efforts included Sunday educational forums such as the Church Council’s “God and Money” curriculum and conversations with congregation’s social justice ministries.
Judy LeBlanc, a member of University Temple Methodist, played a key role in outreach to congregations. As LeBlanc shared, she saw her outreach efforts “as a way to engage other churches in the broader issues of what it means to have a living wage.” Her hope is that the issue of a living wage in its holistic sense will become a topic of conversation and priority in congregations.
The Church Council of Greater Seattle hopes to continue to support and encourage these conversations in congregations and foster collaboration across denominations in the movement for a living wage.
As the banners were blessed, Rev. Duran reminded those in attendance that, “by displaying these banners proudly on our houses of worship, our very buildings become a living voice, a voice that calls out to our neighborhoods saying to those who struggling to make ends meet, you are not alone, that there are communities who care in word and deed.”
The following congregations are displaying a banner, forming a great cloud of witnesses across the city:
- All Pilgrim’s Christian Church-DOC/UCC
- Central Lutheran
- Gethsemane Lutheran
- Plymouth Church-UCC
- Seattle First Baptist
- St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
- St. Mary’s Catholic Parish-banners in English and Spanish
- Trinity Episcopal Parish
- Trinity UMC
- University Baptist
- University Christian-DOC
- University Lutheran
- University Temple-UMC
- University Unitarian Church
Print a copy of this article to share with your congregation here.
Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Seattle City Council Passes Historic $15/hour
Minimum Wage Ordinance
Today, Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance, raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour for over 102,000 workers and their families. The Church Council of Greater Seattle celebrates the passing of this piece of legislation as an important step towards making a living wage vision more of a reality for many working people struggling to make ends meet.
The passing of the legislation is also a testament to the power of community organizing to bring important issues to table of local government and make tangible policy gains. It was just last year that the fast food workers went on strike, sparking the movement for a higher minimum wage.
As Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle commented, “No one would have thought that in less than a year there would be $15/hour minimum wage laws in both Seattle and SeaTac.”
The minimum wage ordinance will take effect April 2015 and has a 4-tiered phase in. Big businesses (defined has having more than 500 employees) will reach $15/hour in 2-3 years and small businesses (less than 500 employees) will have 5-7 years. The difference in phase-in time varies based on whether the business offers any form healthcare to employees. By 2025, all employers in the city of Seattle will be paying employees $18.13/hour.
- Church Council Fact Sheet: Seattle $15 Minimum Wage Ordinance .
- Find a copy of the legislation here.
- University of Washington report: “Who Would be Affected by an Increase in Seattle’s Minimum Wage?” (March 2014)
News articles about the minimum wage ordinance:
- Seattle City Council: “Historic vote addresses income inequality”
- Seattle Times: “Seattle City Council Approves Historic $15 Minimum Wage”
- Yes! Magazine: “Seattle Wins $15 Minimum Wage”
- The Guardian: “$15 Figure Represents ‘Historic Victory’ for Workers”
- The New York Times: Opinion by Robert Reich “Overcoming the New Low-Wage Economy”
Thursday, May 29th, 2014
$15/hour Minimum Wage Ordinance Unanimously Passes out of Committee at Seattle City Council
This morning, Seattle City Council unanimously passed the proposal to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15/hour out of committee. The vote came after the morning’s session considering amendments to the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee’s (IIAC) recommended proposal. The Full Council will vote on the legislation on Monday, June 2nd at 2pm at City Hall.
Key amendments include pushing the start date back to April 2015 and strengthening the enforcement mechanisms once the ordinance is implemented. Other amendments included allowing employers to pay a sub-minimum wage, often referred to as training wages.
Puget Sound SAGE policy researcher, Nicole Vallestero Keenan, who was apart of the Mayor’s IIAC explains what the amendments entail and what it means for working families. Find the summary here.