By George Reed, Retired Executive Director, NC Council of Churches
Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, one of the Council’s eight member congregations, has become the first church in Orange County to be certified as paying a living wage (the amount a worker must earn per hour to afford basic necessities). Orange County Living Wage project, a nonprofit that certifies groups, is basing that certification on a wage of $12.75/hour for all regular full- and part-time employees or $11.25/hour for employees who are getting health insurance as an employment benefit. There are similar certification programs in Durham (Durham Living Wage Project) and Asheville (Just Economics).
If your congregation is in one of these three areas, consider applying for certification (assuming you are paying a living wage to all of your staff – you are, aren’t you?). And, if you are in one of these areas, check out the certified businesses and consider rewarding them with you support. If your congregation isn’t in one of these three areas, you could still pay all of your staff a living wage, and then be sure that others in your community know of your commitment to fair wages, perhaps through a press release or a letter to your local editor. To see what the NC Justice Center has calculated as a living wage for your county, click here and scroll through to the detailed charts near the end.
The message of the Bible is clear that those who labor deserve to be treated with respect, and an important way is to pay them fairly and equitably for their work. Both Testaments speak about economic oppression of the poor and the importance of paying workers fairly. From the Pentateuch through the prophets to Jesus and James, the message is clear. To read more about why people of faith care about the issue of living wages, click here.
Thanks to Binkley and other congregations which give witness to our faith by paying all their staff a living wage.