(RNS) — For more than a century, Catholic social teaching has advocated not for a minimum wage but for a living wage for workers. Sadly, however, the U.S. Congress cannot even increase the minimum wage because of parliamentary rules and Republican opposition.

A living wage, according to Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, would be enough to provide for a family’s basic living expenses (food, housing and other needs). In other words, it should keep a family out of poverty. The U.S. bishops proposed a universal living wage in their 1919 Program for Reconstruction, years before a minimum wage became part of the New Deal.

Activists appeal for a $15 minimum wage near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

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