These are my comments from the May 14, 2015 faith leaders’ press conference in support of SB 1044, “An Act Concerning the Recoupment of State Costs Attributable to Low Wage Employers.”
Good morning. I am the Rev. Josh Pawelek, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester and a resident of Glastonbury. We live in a time of extraordinary wealth and income inequality in the United States. The gap between rich and poor is dragging down local economies, dragging down state and local governments, dragging down schools, dragging down human services, dragging down not only the dreams of working families, but their day-to-day material existence—how do I put food on the table, how do I pay for my prescriptions, how do afford car insurance, how do I pay for diapers? The growing gap between rich and poor is dragging down the hope, the faith, the confidence, the spirit of America’s working people.
Hugely profitable companies exacerbate wealth and income inequality when they refuse to pay their workers a living wage, forcing those workers to seek state assistance to meet basic needs. In CT $480 million dollars in state aid goes to people who work but cannot make ends meet. The failure to pay a living wage while taking massive profits is sinful negligence. As a person of faith and a taxpayer I cannot abide the subsidizing of such negligence. As a Unitarian Universalist I am called to pursue justice, equity and compassion in human relations. $480 million dollars worth of corporate negligence makes it clear to me this situation is not just, not equitable, and not compassionate. It is, in fact, unjust, inequitable, and cruel.
We need to stop asking the question, “What will the market bear?” We need to start asking the questions, “What does a moral market demand?” and “What does a just economic community require?” The answer is a living wage. And if corporations wish to persist in paying a non-living wage, then in the very least a fine is appropriate so that taxpayers are not put in the position of paying for their negligence. This bill is not anti-business. It simply asks businesses to pay their fair share, to practice good corporate citizenship, and to demonstrate care for the economic well-being of the communities in which they operate. As such SB1044 is a bill for justice, a bill or equity, a bill for compassion.