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Washington, DC- Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy joined national religious leaders to announce the “Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign.” This grassroots effort will team religious and community leaders with legislators to do right by the American worker and finally raise the minimum wage through ballot initiatives throughout the country. Frustrated by federal inaction, the “Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign” teamed over 50 religious and community groups with legislators to fight for an increased minimum wage through ballot initiatives on the ground in 2006. Kennedy has led the fight to increase the minimum wage but has been blocked at every turn by Senators who continued to turn a blind eye. In the aftermath of Katrina, he offered a minimum wage amendment to the transportation appropriations bill last month that would have helped nearly half a million people in the impacted states, but the measure was narrowly defeated. “Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic issue. It’s a women’s issue. It’s a civil rights issue. It’s a family issue. But – perhaps more than anything – the minimum wage is a moral issue.” Senator Kennedy said. “Over the last five years the Bush administration has done a lot for the powerful and the wealthy. They have done a lot for corporate America. But they have done little to provide for the working people who are struggling to survive.” Across the country, both voters and state legislatures have recognized and addressed this dire need for a higher minimum wage. Since January of 2004, eleven states have raised their minimum wage either legislatively or through a ballot initiative. In all, 17 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the federal rate of $5.15. And last November, voters in Nevada and Florida approved ballot initiatives to raise their state minimum wages by overwhelming margins – 71 percent of Floridians supported an increase, as did 68 percent of Nevadans. The minimum wage hasn’t increased since 1997, yet Americans increasingly feel the squeeze of the Bush economy. Americans are spending 74 percent more on gas than they did at the beginning of 2001. Heating oil prices are expected to rise by 56 percent this winter. Such rapid price increases will force consumers, especially the poor, to cut spending on clothing, health care and food just so they can get to work and keep warm this winter. The minimum wage was intended to ensure the working Americans would not have to make choices between heating and health care. Instead, our stagnant minimum wage has done the opposite and left even those with multiple jobs desperately straining to make ends meet. Below are Senator Kennedy’s remarks as well as a minimum wage fact sheet: