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BOSTON -- While lawmakers on Beacon Hill debated raising the Commonwealth's minimum wage last week, the bishops of Massachusetts expressed their support for just compensation for workers.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference issued a statement signed by the four diocesan bishops of the state, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Bishop of Fall River George W. Coleman, Bishop of Worcester Robert J. McManus, and Bishop of Springfield Timothy A. McDonnell.
"In its long history, the Catholic Church has consistently supported the right to a just wage for labor as an essential element of a just society and the dignity of every person. Insufficient compensation for labor violates the dignity of the worker and that worker's family. A just wage supports the individual, families, and society as a whole," the statement said.
The state senate has approved a bill to raise the minimum to $11 per hour over three years.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo has proposed a raise to $10.50 over three years, which a House committee had been expected to formally unveil on March 20. The bill would increase the hourly wage from $8 to $10.50 over three years while overhauling the state's unemployment insurance system.
The bishops did not endorse any particular proposal or suggest to what level the minimum should be raised.
"The Catholic Church is among the state's largest social service providers. The Church's associated ministries give daily witness to the struggle of those who require assistance with the basic costs of rent, utilities, transportation, and food. Low-wage workers are often trapped in the desperate cycle of poverty," the statement said.
The bishops said the state's current minimum of $8 per hour ''is insufficient to support and uphold the dignity of individuals and families,'' and is ''hardly enough to pay for basic necessities such as food and rent, let alone support a family.''
"Because of this, many families find it difficult to afford basic needs and are forced to pursue multiple low-wage jobs in search of financial survival and a small sense of stability," it said.
The bishops noted that Pope Francis recently reiterated that "the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies."
"Any economic policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be informed by the inherent dignity of every capable man and woman working for the betterment of their own livelihood and that of their family and society," the bishops said.