There’s A Push to Raise the Minimum Wage in Massachusetts

Beacon Hill lawmakers will discuss bumping up working wages in order to meet inflation costs.

Photo via Flickr.com

Photo via Flickr.com

Massachusetts hasn’t raised the minimum wage for workers in half a decade, and Beacon Hill lawmakers say it puts employees at a disadvantage as they try to pay bills and support their families.

“It’s a problem that is long overdue,” says state Senator Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton. “These low-wage workers have bills to pay and basic needs they need to have met … the rate does not keep up with the cost of purchasing products that are out there.”

As the cost of living increases, Pacheco says, the money earned by minimum wage workers doesn’t keep pace. On Tuesday, Pacheco will bring a bill before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and call for a tiered minimum wage increase plan that would help support economic recovery in the state.

According to Pacheco’s proposal, the bill would raise the current minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 an hour 60 days after passage, then to $10 an hour starting on July 1, 2014, and finally, to $11 an hour beginning July 1, 2015. Beginning in 2016, the minimum wage would then start increasing based on the spike in the Consumer Price Index, “thereby preventing further decline in value in the future,” the bill states.

“We are trying to reach down and help those playing by the rules, and working one, two, and in some cases three jobs at a time in order to make ends meet. The wage has not been adjusted [since 2008], and it should be adjusted,” says Pacheco. “It’s an issue long overdue, and it’s about economic justice. We need to be looking down at the bottom rung and making sure those people that are getting up everyday [can make a living wage].”

Currently, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $8 per hour, putting the state behind six other with higher pay rates for employees. Five more states, including Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, are right behind Massachusetts in terms of wages, but those states raise the minimum based on inflation, and could soon surpass Massachusetts’ $8 rate, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “With a passage of this [bill] we will be at the top of the minimum wage scale nationally. Other states have gone beyond Massachusetts,” says Pacheco.

State Treasurer Steve Grossman agreed with Pacheco’s sentiment that wages needed to be increased at least over the next three years. In a letter sent to the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, he wrote that the current wages pose a challenge for many families. “If Charles Dickens was alive today he would write A Tale of Two Commonwealths—one about prosperous, thriving communities filled with low unemployment, state of the art schools and modern transportation infrastructure, and another about Gateway Cities suffering from too few jobs and teachers, along with too little hope and dignity,” wrote Grossman.  “In government, the most vulnerable citizens are our responsibility. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.”

A 2012 report from the Economic Policy Institute showed that by increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour, more than a half a million Massachusetts workers would benefit from the raise, and create thousands of new jobs.

Data from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center also shows that when the minimum wage does not increase from year to year, but prices and the cost of living continue to go up, minimum-wage workers have lose the ability to purchase the products that they bought the previous year, often cutting back on certain expenses. Pacheco says by matching the cost of living expenses, it would create an economic boon for Massachusetts. “The rate does not keep up with the cost of purchasing products that are out there,” says Pacheco.

  • Justine Smith

    The best way to help our economy. Pay people a decent wage so the don’t have to depend on food stamps and medicare.

  • Sam West

    Why $9, $10, $11 per hour? It really is a small help in paying the bills. Raise the minimum wage to $50, $100, $1000 per hour then everybody will be able to live great. When are these religious liberals going to realize that no government decree can prescribe what value people should exchange for what value. And, despite all this wasted time talking about the necessity of the minimum wage, the real minimum wage always remains – $0 per hour. This is what people who produce less than $8, 9, 10, 11 per hour make or don’t make. They remain unemployed.

  • Frank2k13

    This is awesome news !

  • disqus_e8d3BIPp0c

    in this state it should be 10 dollars an hour considering you cant get 40 hour work weeks at some places like department stores.

  • Melanie LaPoint

    The people in low wage jobs will bring the money home one of two ways.
    Our State Officials need to make a choice on which of the two options they prefer.

    1. The people make $10 an hour, and future minimum wage rates should be tied to inflation and adjusted every other year.

    2. The people make $8 an hour with no future adjustments, and are subsidized via welfare and food stamps.

    It really is just that simple.
    Either the Employer pays the people, or the government does.
    And the employer won’t pay until the government forces the issue with new minimum wage laws.

    I support option #1.
    Lift the people out of poverty.
    Better wages means less crime and more money in local economies.