662,000 Low-Wage Workers in Massachusetts to Get New Year’s Raise

In Fight for $15, Paid Leave, Press Releases by News Desk

Minimum Wage to Rise to $12 in First of Five Annual Increases

BOSTON – On January 1, 2019, 662,000 low-wage workers in Massachusetts will get a raise when the state’s minimum wage rises from $11 to $12 an hour, the first of five annual increases laid out in legislation passed this spring that will bring the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2023. Also on January 1, the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers will rise from $3.75 to $4.35 an hour.

“I’m excited that the hard work the Fight for $15 workers put into this movement has finally paid off in Massachusetts,” said Teiarra Fennell of Boston, a Chipotle worker and activist with the Fight for $15 movement. “Everyone, not just fast food workers, understands that our economy is broken and that right now, working people can’t afford to pay rent or take care of our families. The minimum wage increasing gives workers a chance to create a better future for ourselves and our families.”

In 2017 and 2018, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions collected more than 346,000 signatures to qualify paid leave and $15 minimum wage questions for the ballot, all without using paid signature gathering companies. In June, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed legislation that creates a paid family and medical leave program and raises the minimum wage to $15 over five years.

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, this year’s minimum wage increase will raise the wages of 662,000 Massachusetts workers, or 20 percent of the workforce statewide, for a total wage increase of $817.5 million in 2019. Roughly 88 percent of workers who are affected by this year’s raise are at least 20 years old, 58 percent are women, and 52 percent work full-time.

The increase will raise the wages of 29 percent of Black/African American workers, 36 percent of Hispanic/Latinx workers, and 18 percent of White workers in the state. Eleven percent of workers benefitting from the increase are Black/African American, 17 percent are Hispanic/Latinx, and 65 percent are White. The increase will also raise the wages of roughly 15 percent of all working parents in Massachusetts, and more than 255,000 kids in the Commonwealth live in households with a working parent who would benefit from the increase.

“As educators, we see the value of increasing the minimum wage to help workers provide more resources for their families,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “When our students’ families don’t make enough to put food on the table, it’s no surprise that students are affected in school. Increasing the economic resources of Massachusetts families is a gamechanger for the academic success of our students.”

For employers, higher wages mean more efficient workers and less employee turnover, making it easier to recruit and retain workers and helping their bottom line. In most lower-income communities, between a third and half of all workers will get a raise as the minimum wage rises. That means more money they can spend at local businesses. More than 300 Massachusetts business owners and executives, and 90 Massachusetts economists, signed statements supporting a minimum wage increase to $15.

“The minimum wage increase affects a lot of the workers here in New Bedford,” said Bob Martin, Owner of Dee’s Hot Dogs, which has two locations in New Bedford. “It will be good for small businesses like mine when our customers to have a little more money to spend in the neighborhood.”

In subsequent years, the bill will raise the minimum wage to $12.75 in 2020, $13.50 in 2021, $14.25 in 2022, and $15 in 2023. It will also raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to $4.95 in 2020, $5.55 in 2021, $6.15 in 2022, and $6.75 in 2023. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, nearly 1 million Massachusetts workers, more than a quarter of the state’s workforce, will see their wages rise as a result of the full increase.

While the paid family and medical leave law takes effect on January 1, regulations are still being developed and employer and employee payroll contributions will not begin until July 1. Paid leaves under the law can be taken by workers beginning in 2021.

“The minimum wage and paid leave laws are a significant win for workers in Massachusetts,” said Paris Wilson of Chelsea, a Shake Shack worker and activist with the Fight for $15 movement. “However, we cannot forget the thousands of workers in other states where the minimum wage is still well below the federal poverty line. We have to make sure that we continue to push America’s leaders and stand up for low wage workers everywhere.”

If workers do not receive the wage increase that is due starting January 1, they should call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 and file a workplace complaint through the Attorney General’s website.


Raise Up Massachusetts is a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity. Since our coalition came together in 2013, we have nearly doubled wages for hundreds of thousands of working people by winning two increases in the state’s minimum wage, won best-in-the-nation earned sick time and paid family and medical leave benefits for workers and their families, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. Learn more at raiseupma.org.