New England News
3:22 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Mass. Legislative Commitee Will Hold Hearing On Raising Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Massachusetts is currently $8 per hour, the rate was set in 2008 and does not adjust for inflation.

The federal rate is currently $7.75, but President Obama has requested that Congress raise the rate to $9 per hour and index the rate to inflation.

The bill, filed by Democratic State Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton, would seek to raise the Bay State’s minimum wage to $11 dollars over three years. Pacheco said that although the $3 increase may seem dramatic, the amount more accurately reflects the value of the minimum wage in 1968 adjusted for inflation.

"If that wage-rate was in effect today, the 1968 minimum wage, adjusted for inflation it would be $11.58," said Pacheco.

Pacheco, who has filed legislation to raise the minimum wage in the past, said that he expects opposition to the bill at Tuesday’s Labor Committee hearing.

"The same arguments come up every time there's an adjustment in the minimum wage, that we will see a negative impact on the economy," said Pacheco. "And frankly, we've got enough data on that to know that is simply not true."

The call to raise in the minimum wage is supported by State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who in a recent letter spoke about the widening gap between the rich and poor in Massachusetts.

Grossman said, “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.”

Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said that a raise in the minimum wage would strengthen the purchasing power for low-income individuals and families, which would strengthen local economies.

"One of the things to remember about low-wage workers is that those are the people who are more likely to spend what they earn right away in their local community," said Berger.

However, Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, a group that represents more than 3,000 businesses in the Bay State, said that the increase to $11 is too steep, and would put small business owners at a disadvantage over those in neighboring states and beyond.

"We all compete with businesses across the border...but for the retail industry we also compete with those at the other end of the smart phone," said Hurst.

Hurst said that keeping minimum wage jobs available is important for young people and teenagers, who may gain early experience in the workforce, and that raising the minimum wage to $11 would not be the only hurdle small businesses face.

Hurst pointed to Massachusetts and Rhode Island as the only two states in the country that require businesses to pay time-and-a-half to workers on Sundays, a policy he says is outdated. Nonetheless, he used Rhode Island as an example of a state seeking more modest increases.

"Their current minimum wage is $7.75 - even below our current minimum wage," said Hurst.  "They just voted to increase it but only to $8.25. So let's keep in mind what's happening around us."

In March New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an increase in the minimum wage into law as part of the 2013-2014 state budget. The state would raise minimum wage in stages to $9.00 per hour effective Dec. 31st, 2015.

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