Editor’s note: The following is the text of remarks prepared by Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, for delivery at a “Raise Oklahoma Rally” Monday on the steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
I’m here today because raising the minimum wage is a moral issue. Life is short. None of us has time or energy to waste. “It is appointed unto man once to die” and after that comes judgment. On judgment day we all must give an account for how we used our time and energy. Some of us will also be giving an account for how we misused the time and energy of those that were entrusted to our supervision.
Refusing to fairly compensate workers for their time and energy is an egregious injustice. It is the moral equivalent of theft and murder. It’s theft because it wastes time that is precious. Every life is precious. It’s murder because it depletes the vital energy necessary to sustain life. That’s why the Bible says, “The workman is worthy of his hire.” Paying less than a worthy wage robs people and kills them slowly.
Society’s minimum standard for a worthy wage is the minimum wage. A standard that is so low that people are forced to work more than two full-time jobs to eke out a subsistence existence, says something about society. Every time a minimum wage worker draws a paycheck he or she gets another notice that, in the eyes of our society, his or her life is cheap–very cheap–and getting cheaper every year.
We’re here today to deliver a message about the value of those lives in God’s eyes, but I’m not sure that the people in this building can hear me. You can help me amplify it. Help me remind them that there will be a payday someday.
Governor Henry! You live in a mansion at taxpayer expense while the children of the working poor go begging for food and shelter. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!
Oklahoma State Senators! Year after year, you reduce assistance to the working poor. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!
Oklahoma State Representatives! You give yourself pay raises while the minimum wage remains the same. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!
Oklahoma Business Leaders! You have compounded your salaries and benefits by the hundredfold while freezing wages and reducing benefits for your minimum wage workers. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!
Oklahoma News Media! You’ve become a megaphone for the unconscionable rationalizations of a society that treats the lives of the working poor with contempt. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!
Oklahoma Religious Leaders! You are standing in line to siphon off faith-based funds that were formerly distributed directly to the working poor. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!
Mark my words. There will be a payday someday. God’s standards of justice will not be mocked. What goes around, comes around. You reap what you sow. Sow to the wind and you’ll reap the whirlwind.
Why must Oklahoma be an economic dustbowl for working people?
Sow some seeds of respect for the lives of working people. Increase the minimum wage. Let justice roll down like waters. Let the working people of Oklahoma enjoy some of the fruits of their own labor and productivity.
Bruce Prescott is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.