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Hobby Lobby stores announce plan to increase minimum wage to $17 an hour

The Christian-owned Hobby Lobby retail chain is increasing its starting wage for all full-time employees to $17 an hour beginning on October 1.

“Because this year has presented so many challenges to our employees, we are very happy that we are able to provide pay increases to thousands of our associates before the Christmas season,” founder and CEO David Green said.

“We have always worked hard to be a retail leader when it comes to taking care of our people,” he said. “From closing our stores on Sundays and at 8 p.m. the rest of the week, to providing some of the best pay and benefits in the retail industry, we are thankful that we are able to share our success with our valued employees and provide time for rest, family and worship.”

Hobby Lobby said it was one of the first national retailers to establish a nationwide minimum hourly wage well above the federal minimum wage. The company said it has raised its minimum wage 10 times over the last 11 years.

Many companies across the nation have been forced to raise starting wages, commonly known as “minimum wage,” to compete with additional unemployment benefits. The first Covid stimulus passed by Congress made it possible for many people to earn more by not working than returning to work once businesses reopened.

The company is not with out its critics, however, especially when it comes to sourcing its retail products. The vast majority of items sold by the chain are manufactured in China, which has come under intense scrutiny over persecution of religious minorities. Annual reports regularly place the nation at the top of human rights violators. Most recently it has been the minority Muslim Uighurs who are being forced into concentration camps.

The owners have not hesitated to speak publicly about their Christian faith, with the retail chain’s president, Steve Green, once declaring that “this is God’s company” to be operated “according to the principles He has given us in His word.”

READ: Disney under fire for Chinese persecution connections

In 2012, the Green family filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over a mandate in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control and abortion-inducing drugs, such as the morning-after pill.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2014 that corporations can refuse to provide coverage for abortifacients in their health insurance plans if they possess deeply held religious beliefs preventing them from doing so in good conscience. A subsequent Supreme Court ruling this summer upheld a Trump administration rule broadening the religious exemptions to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has vowed to roll back conscience protections for companies opposed to the mandate on religious grounds should he win in November.

“If I am elected, I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions,” Biden vowed in a campaign email last year.

Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice