The fight for a higher minimum wage engulfs cities and states across the country. With the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, city and state municipalities have taken it upon themselves to set more livable minimum wages for their citizens. Massachusetts is tied for the second highest minimum wage in the country at $11 an hour. This is a stark comparison to our neighboring state New Hampshire, which still uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The fight to raise this minimum wage has taken form in the group Fight for $15, which encourages cities across the nation to raise their minimum wages.
Raise Up Massachusetts is a state coalition leading the fight for $15 in our state. The group’s proposal is to increase the state’s minimum wage by $1 every year for four years, which will bring the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. Their next battle is to get a legislative proposal onto the 2018 Massachusetts ballot. Many Massachusetts state legislators are getting behind the idea. State Representative Liz Malia wrote an opinion piece explaining the need for paid family medical leave and a higher minimum wage, in which she said, “Businesses would also benefit because their employees would be healthier and more productive while higher wages would help to the decrease employee turnover.”
On the other side of this, local business leaders have expressed concerns with this proposal to increase the minimum wage. A state Senate task force held a town hall to hear retailers’ concerns with the proposal to increase minimum wage. Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, expressed his concern with the minimum wage being raised quicker than businesses can adjust to. Additionally, Oosthoek echoed the desire to create a “teen wage” that would be lower than the working adult one.
A WBUR poll found that 78 percent of people support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Raise Up Massachusetts is operating under a “take it or leave it strategy.” The group has no plans to compromise on a minimum wage under $15 just so it can get on the ballot. To get on the ballot, the group has already submitted more than the necessary number of signatures it takes to be considered for a ballot question. Now the next step is to go before the Massachusetts General Court. The two questions that have already been passed and will be on the ballot concern repealing laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and creating a four percent tax on incomes that exceed $1 million.
The fight for minimum wage happens locally. If you want to get involved with the fight for $15, Raise Up Massachusetts is always looking for more volunteers. Sign up here.