On March 27, Pope Francis and President Barack Obama met to discuss, among other topics, their shared concern about the moral and economic crisis of growing income inequality. Pope Francis has deplored "unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities," and President Obama has called inequality "the defining issue of our time."
Our Catholic faith teaches that addressing inequality must include just wages and working conditions for those in the labor force. As long ago as 1891, Pope Leo XIII affirmed the right of workers to form associations or unions to seek justice and fair wages. In 1981, St. John Paul II asserted the fundamental "priority of labor over capital" and called for "new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers." And more recently, Pope Francis called on the faithful "to fight for social benefits, a dignified retirement, holidays, rest, and freedom for trade unions. All of these issues create social justice."
In keeping with our faith's social justice tradition, I strongly support a key element of President Obama's agenda, which is to raise the minimum wage. Ultimately, the minimum wage should be a living wage, providing low-wage workers with what they need to rise out of poverty and care for their families. That is justice.
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