Faith leaders call for minimum wage increase
As state lawmakers launch into budget talks, local religious leaders are speaking out. Our Tamara Lindstrom heard from members of the clergy who say raising the state minimum wage isn't just politics, it's a moral issue.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A woman on a mission to feed the starving masses, Emma McDonald says need knows no bounds.
"Elderly, the young, youth, no class, no color. Everybody comes here when they're hungry," said Emma McDonald, Food Pantry coordinator.
The food pantry and soup kitchen at Hopps Memorial CME Church is open three days a week. And as neighbors filter in to get a hot meal, leaders from local congregations gather to send a message to lawmakers.
"We gather together this afternoon to show that the public is strongly supportive of efforts to increase the minimum wage to nine dollars per hour plus indexing for inflation," said Rev. Kevin Agee, Hopps Memorial CME Church.
To these representatives, it's a moral issue.
"We should be ashamed that a man or a woman can't earn a wage and support his or her family," said Peter Sarver, Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse President.
The leaders say some members of their congregations work full time, or more than one job on minimum wage, and still need services like the food pantry.
"And contrary to popular belief, not everybody who earns minimum wage is a teenager on a summer job. Many persons are adults, many persons are trying to support families earning minimum wage or barely above minimum wage," said Rev. Agee.
The increase has been approved by the state Assembly. Now, this community is looking to the state Senate to back the move they say would help jumpstart the economy.
As for McDonald, who sees the economic struggle firsthand, she'd like to see more help from elected officials.
"Not only during election time, but all the time they should be visible to say I'm here. I know your plight. This is what I'm doing," said McDonald.