WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 20: Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Poor People’s Campaign held the news conference to call for a congressional resolution “to address poverty and low wages.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The Poor People’s Campaign is urging President Joe Biden to meet with low-income workers before the organization’s march on Washington, D.C. on June 18 to advocate for a $15 federal minimum wage.
“What we cannot do is be silent anymore,” Rev. William Barber II, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said during a press conference Monday at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C.
Barber, who is also the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, said the anti-poverty campaign wants Biden to have a meeting with low-wage workers, religious leaders and economists.
The Poor People’s Campaign also requested a meeting with members of Congress for June 15.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has not increased since 2009. Biden has urged Congress to increase the minimum to $15 but Democrats’ attempts to do so have not succeeded.
Research has shown that a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 would benefit women and workers of color, particularly in the South.
A 40-hour work week with a minimum wage of $15 an hour comes out to an annual salary of about $31,000. That salary would be just above the federal poverty line for a family of four, which is $27,750 a year.
Biden in April of last year signed an executive order to require a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors such as nursing assistants at Veterans Administration hospitals, maintenance workers, cleaning staff, and food service workers.
On Monday, Barber said that the nearly 40 million people living in poverty are also suffering the most from inflation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer prices for food have increased 8.8% in March this year, the largest 12-month increase since May 1981. “Within food, prices for food at home rose 10.0 percent and prices for food away from home rose 6.9 percent,” according to BLS.
“The only way up is to lift from the bottom,” Barber said.
Beth Schaffer of South Carolina, appearing virtually at the press event, said she works more than 60 hours a week, seven days a week, and is still struggling to pay her rent.
“The minimum wage is sentencing us to poverty,” she said.
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