Fast-Food Workers Inch Closer to $15 Minimum Wage

Change moves at a glacial pace on Beacon Hill.

Low-wage workers and allies rally at an April march. Photo via AP

Low-wage workers and allies rally at an April march. Photo via AP

Fast-food and big-box store workers have moved one step closer to a $15 minimum wage, with the Labor and Workforce Development Committee’s approval of Harwich Sen. Dan Wolf’s bill.

The committee, co-chaired by Wolf, voted 4-2 Tuesday to approve the bill, calls for a $13.50-per-hour wage for low-wage workers starting in 2017, rising to $15 in 2018. The change, phased over three years, applies to corporations with 200 or more employees.

“On a day when hundreds of low-wage workers are marching to the State House to demand a $15 minimum wage, we are very pleased to see this bill, which would provide stability to low-wage employees at large companies, move to the Senate,” Raise Up Massachusetts, coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions in support of the bill, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the entire Legislature to move the bill forward and allow these employees, many of whom are parents, to support their families.”

Raise Up Massachusetts co-chair Lew Finfer told the State House News Service he believes it may take more than one two-year legislative session for the bill to receive a vote.

Workers rallied outside the Primark department store in Downtown Crossing Tuesday afternoon before marching from Faneuil Hall to the State House to deliver a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker. In it, the so-called #WageAction Coalition calls for Baker and other elected officials to “recognize the need for fair pay, a pathway to citizenship, and that #BlackLivesMatter.”

“While you recently stated that, ‘no one elected me to worry about presidential politics,’ we believe you do have a responsibility to address and refute some of the dangerous and unhinged rhetoric being advanced by prominent members of your party,” the letter reads.

Speaker Robert DeLeo said he doubts the House will take up the bill after voting last year to raise the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour by 2017. “We had addressed this issue last year, so we addressed that and we addressed the area of unemployment insurance and whole host of other things so I don’t see us taking it up this year,” DeLeo told reporters.