Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday March 7th, 2013, 5:46pm

African American Religious Leaders Join Forces To Call For Higher Minimum Wage (VIDEO)

African-American faith-based leaders from across Illinois called on state legislators to increase Illinois’ minimum wage to $10.65 an hour at a press conference in Chicago Wednesday. 

The leaders urged their elected officials to support Senate Bill 68, which would gradually increase the minimum wage until it reaches $10.65 and go up with the cost of living each year thereafter.

Joel Miles (pictured), senior pastor of Greater Walters AME Zion Church, said raising the minimum wage could help curb the senseless violence that’s taken the lives of too many individuals in his community.

“We have seen individuals turn to illegal and violent activities simply because they are unable to pay their rent, to provide their children with basic food and clothing,” he said Wednesday at the Trinity United Church of Christ.

“No full-time worker in this state of Illinois should earn less than $17,000 a year.”

Illinois’ current minimum wage is $8.25, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25. The state has the fourth highest hourly-wage rate in the country.

Gov. Pat Quinn called for a state increase to $10 an hour during his State of the State address last month; while President Obama called for an increase to the minimum wage during his State of the Union Address.

The bill to raise the minimum wage, sponsored by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) and previously called Senate Bill 1565, was first introduced in 2011.

At the current $8.25 rate, minimum wage workers in the state typically earn about $325 per week, Miles said.

It would take a minimum wage worker about 40 hours to receive what Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett makes in just three hours, he added.

“Full-time work should lift individuals and families out of poverty and not keep them confined into it,” Miles said.

The leaders said raising the minimum wage would help bring families out of poverty while also setting the state’s economy on a path toward real recovery.

The Rev. Valerie Parker, director of social action of the 4th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said people of color are disproportionately affected by the current and “insulting” minimum wage of $8.25.

“Women, especially women of color, are much more likely to hold low-wage jobs than men,” she added.

Here’s more from Parker:

The faith leaders also announced the formation of “Faith in Action,” a coalition of socially-conscious pastors and parishioners, affiliated with Action Now, fighting for change in their communities.

“We’ve come today to let our elected officials know that we must raise the minimum wage and level of economic playing field so that everyone has an opportunity to provide a quality living for their prospective families,” said Nathanial Waddles, senior pastor of Kendrick Memorial Baptist Church. “Our communities are waiting on us to make a difference now.”

Some small business owners have cried foul at the idea of a $10 or higher wage increase, saying it would hurt business.

Otis Moss, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, said supporting SB 68 is not a political issue, but a “moral issue with political implications.”

Moss said the statement that some businesses would have to lay off workers if a higher minimum wage kicks in doesn’t “bear out statistically.”

When asked how likely SB 68 could pass this legislative session he said, “I think it’s very, very possible. Absolutely.”

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