02-19-2017  6:26 am      •     

On March 18, 1968, two weeks before his murder, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., "It is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis getting part-time income." He said, "A living wage should be the right of all working Americans."
What would Dr. King have thought of a $6.55 federal minimum wage in 2009, when the 1968 minimum wage is worth about $10 in today¹s dollars?
What would he have made of a minimum wage that is less adequate for the basic necessities of life than it was 40 years ago?
This is a moment exultant with hope. Watching the inauguration of the first African American president, we ask each other, "Have not our weary feet come to the place for which our fathers sighed?" But our hope is tempered with anxiety about our current economic crisis and concern about the millions of people in our country who are still working for poverty wages.
Paychecks have stagnated for many years, and more and more jobs come with no benefits, not even sick days. Today the minimum wage is set so low that millions of men and women working full time are constantly choosing which necessities to go without. Health workers go without healthcare; childcare workers struggle to care for their own children; food service workers seek help at food banks.
Low-wage workers waited ten long years for the minimum wage increase that finally arrived in 2007, from $5.15 to $6.65 an hour ­ the longest wait in the history of the minimum wage. All of us are now paying for that delay, as falling worker buying power helped fuel the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The minimum wage is the floor of the economy, and when it sinks, we all sink.
With the election of Barack Obama we are seeing a new coalition preparing to govern.  We are hopeful that we have an opportunity now to bring the voice of low wage workers and their families to the White House and to Congress.
Let Justice Roll, a nonpartisan coalition of more than 90 faith, community, labor and business organizations, which played a leading role in winning the last increase, is calling for $10 an hour in 2010. We are asking people to join with more than 15 leaders of denominations and national faith organizations and Americans from all 50 states, and endorse our call for $10 in 2010 at www.letjusticeroll.org.
A federal minimum wage of $10 in 2010 will move us closer to the day when all workers earn a living wage.
President Obama's choice of Rep. Hilda Solis for Secretary of Labor evoked the accomplishments of Frances Perkins, the architect of the minimum wage, who served as the first female Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. The time has come to reclaim Perkins' legacy and build on it. The daughter of two immigrant workers and union members, Rep. Solis has promised to "improve the opportunities for hardworking families." To keep this promise, we encourage her to advocate for $10 in 2010.
In June 1966, I heard Dr. King speak to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. He decried poverty and militarism as well as racism, and he reminded us, ³When the church is true to its nature, it stands as a moral guardian of the community and of society.² He called on each of us to create our own "stone of hope."
I call upon all of us to honor Dr. King¹s memory by renewing our commitment to a just economy. I hew my stone of hope with these words: "The arc of the universe is long," said Dr. King, quoting 19th century Unitarian abolitionist Theodore Parker, "but it bends toward justice."

Rev. William G. Sinkford is the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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