Last week, at a town hall in Tampa, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) generated controversy after telling a constituent who’s been working fast food for 10 years that raising the minimum wage is “not right.” “If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it?” asked Ross.
Now, local faith leaders are speaking out.
Faith in Public Life, a progressive religious organization, reached out to pastors in the Tampa area for reaction. They released the following statements:
Rev. Russell Meyer, Executive Director of the Florida Council of Churches and a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: “As a Christian and a pastor, I’m alarmed to hear Congressman Ross’s response to a full-time worker trying to get by less than $300 a week. In a country as wealthy as ours, it’s simply un-Christian how low the minimum wage is today.” Rev. Richard Huggins, pastor at McLeod Memorial Presbyterian Church and constituent of Rep. Ross: “It is morally bankrupt for Congressman Ross to fight against making the minimum wage a family wage. Someone who makes a six-figure salary paid for by tax dollars has no business making the lives of his working poor constituents even harder. It is a failure of both judgment and conscience.” Rev. Larry Rankin, former pastor with The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and constituent of Rep. Ross: “Rep. Ross, stated that the minimum wage is ‘not right.’ What’s not right is that today’s minimum wage doesn’t sustain a family. Scripture tells us: ‘You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers…You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them.’”
Poverty is a significant issue in Ross’s district. Approximately 1 in 6 residents of Florida’s 15th congressional district live in poverty, including more than 22 percent of families with children under 5 years old. According to Half in Ten, the rates are even higher for minorities, with nearly a quarter of African Americans and Latinos in the district living in poverty.