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Church groups push minimum-wage hike

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The Rev. Larry Clark calls on churches to assist a petition drive for an amendment to boost Ohio's minimum wage.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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Fifteen representatives from local churches and the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo stood together on the steps of an Old West End church yesterday, saying that Ohioans have a moral responsibility to raise the minimum wage.

"People who work should not make sub-poverty wages," said the Rev. Larry Clark, executive director of Toledo Area Ministries. "The prophets of old spoke with one voice in their demand for justice for the poor ... Jesus' concern for the poor was present throughout His ministry."

The news conference was part of a statewide "Faith Week of Action" campaign organized by the Ohio Council of Churches to collect enough signatures to put the wage-boost proposal on the November ballot.

Among those joining Mr. Clark, a United Methodist minister, as cars and trucks rumbled past Central United Methodist Church yesterday were clergy from the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and Bible Temple Family Worship Center. John Shousher spoke for the Islamic Center.

Also attending were Woody and Judy Lee Trautman of the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio; Bonnie Bishop of the Toledo League of Women Voters; Jeffrey Williams of the state's Let Justice Roll campaign, and representatives from Jobs with Justice Coalition and the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

The ministers are asking churches to help gather signatures so that voters can decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour, beginning Jan. 1, with annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index.

Although Ohio recently raised the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour, it is still far below the poverty level, said Mr. Williams, of Let Justice Roll. A full-time worker being paid $5.15 an hour would receive $10,700 a year, he said.

"This is not a left issue or a right issue or a moderate issue. This is an everybody issue," he said.

The Rev. Daniel Schilling, of Calvary United Methodist Church in Toledo, said any worker able to pay for housing, utilities, food, and transportation on less than $1,000 a month is a "financial genius."

"Let's give them a break. Let's give them support. Let's give them a raise," Mr. Schilling said.

Pastor Will Stuart, of Nu-Vizion United Church of Christ, said if people followed the words of the prophet Micah, seeking justice, love, and mercy, they could build a "holy community."

"This is not a pipe dream. This is not rhetoric. It is reality. It can and should be done," he said.

Contact David Yonke at

dyonke@theblade.com or

419-724-6154.

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