The Baltimore Jewish Council passed a policy statement on minimum wage that advocates for a wage above the federal poverty line.
“… The Baltimore Jewish Council supports an equitable minimum wage that enables workers to earn over the federal poverty line, but at the same time does not unduly burden Maryland business,” the statement says.
Jeff Kagan, vice chair of the BJC’s government relations commission, said the resolution passed with flying colors at the organization’s board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1. He said it is an important social justice issue embedded in Judaism.
“We believe that this is an important issue in terms of fairness and equity, which we find in Jewish law, teachings and tradition,” Kagan said.
The policy’s text directly speaks to its Jewish inspiration.
“… Jewish tradition seeks a balance between employees earning their most basic living needs and allowing business to succeed,” the statement says. “When wages fall short of providing for these needs, Jewish values seek to restore a fair balance on the employees’ behalf.”
Kagan said a lot the BJC’s coalition partners, such as the Maryland Interfaith Legislative Committee, the Maryland Alliance for the Poor and welfare advocates, also support an equitable minimum wage. The position is also aligned with Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will be advocating for this in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session.
Kagan said the government relations commission discussed what the wage amount should be, how far above the poverty line the amount should be, the impact on businesses and the impact on minimum-wage workers, but it could not come to an agreement on those issues. There needs to be a balance among those issues, and Kagan said the policy handles that without supporting particular legislation.
“We made it very clear that the policy we put in place today was not taking a position on legislation, because we haven’t even seen the bill,” he said.