Catholic Church Weighs in on NYC's Living Wage Bill

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan says the Catholic Church backs the bill to require large businesses that beneft from taxpayer subsidies to pay employees at least $10 an hour

By Chris Glorioso
|  Tuesday, Nov 22, 2011  |  Updated 6:38 AM EDT
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Catholic Church Backs NYC Living Wage Bill

NBC New York

Living Wage rally at the Riverside Church Monday night.

The Catholic church is adding a moral voice to the divisive debate over New York City's "living wage" bill.

At a politically charged event inside Manhattan's Riverside Church Monday night, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities for the New York Archdiocese, told supporters of the legislation that the Catholic Church backs their cause.

"The church supports fair wages with decent benefits and jobs in sufficient numbers, so that all might find work," said Sullivan, quoting from a letter penned by Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

The living wage rally comes the day before a major City Council hearing on the legislation Tuesday in lower Manhattan.

The Archdiocese stopped short of endorsing the bill's exact language, but other speakers at the living wage event praised Archbishop Dolan for wading into the debate.

"The Catholic church has been a working people's church in the city since it first showed up here," said NAACP president Dr. Benjamin Jealous. "This is a church of people who came here from across the world trying to seek a better life, so it is fitting for the Catholic Church to be here."

The living wage legislation, officially known as the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, would require that large businesses benefiting from taxpayer subsidies pay employees at least  $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without benefits.

The event inside Riverside Church was not primarily a religious ceremony, although leaders from various faiths spoke in support of the Living Wage bill.

Attendees were given political rally signs with bold letters reading "Living Wage Now!"

A majority of City Council supports the proposal, but notably absent from the event was Speaker Christine Quinn.  She can block the bill from a vote on the Council floor.

While she is expected to attend Tuesday's hearing, her office told NBC New York she was still researching the issue and has not decided on whether to let the bill come to a vote.

Mayor Bloomberg and the city's Chambers of Commerce oppose the bill.

"Living Wage is job killer, not creator," tweeted Jack Friedman, the president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

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