Clergy Gather to Support Hike in Arkansas' Minimum Wage

JANUARY 19, 2006 - Posted at 3:31 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - About 20 church leaders gave a press conference in downtown Little Rock today to support increasing the minimum wage in Arkansas.

Attending the gathering were leaders of the denominations including the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, the National Baptist Convention and a reform Jewish congregation in Little Rock.

The religious leaders said the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour is too low to keep someone out of poverty, even if the worker puts in 40 hours a week.

They say an increase to $6.15 an hour plus inflation adjustments would be a step in the right direction.  But they say that this is still low.

Bob Edgar, general secretary of the national council of Churches of Christ in the USA, said religious people have a biblical mandate to speak out on the minimum wage question.  He said the minimum wage is supposed to keep people out of poverty, not in it.

The clergy are part of a coalition called Give Arkansas a Raise Now that is trying to put the wage question on the ballot for the November 7 election.

The state attorney general's office is expected to rule Monday on whether the wording of the ballot proposal is acceptable.

If it is, the group would then have to gather 80,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)