BOSTON — While lawmakers quickly turned attention this session to their own paychecks, advocates are hoping to build momentum behind a bill that would hike the minimum wage to $15, affecting nearly 1 million people.
This January marked the third and final year of $1 annual increases in the minimum hourly wage, bringing it up to $11. Talk of further increases has parts of the business community worried, while supporters of a higher wage floor say it could shrink the widening income inequality gap.
Activists who successfully pushed lawmakers to raise the minimum wage in 2014 law are coming back to the Legislature for further increases this session, pushing a bill filed by Arlington Sen. Ken Donnelly and Worcester Rep. Dan Donahue, both Democrats, to raise the wage floor to $15 by 2021.
“I understand when you look at the businesses, they would be concerned,” Donnelly told reporters. He said, “I understand that, but I also understand that the people that are doing the work need to raise their families; they need to buy food; they need to pay rent.”
The former firefighter who worked for the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts before joining the Senate in 2009 said it is not too early to raise the minimum wage still higher.
“Do you think that $15 an hour is enough money? Or $31,000 a year is enough to live in Massachusetts? Not around here.
A year-round 40-hour-per-week job at a $15 hourly rate would work out to $31,200 annually.
Advocates who support a constitutional amendment to add a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million, have expanded their efforts to boost the lowest wages this session.
Last year Raise Up Massachusetts backed a bill that would apply a $15 minimum wage to big box stores and major fast food establishments. The legislation (HD 2719/ SD 984) filed this session would raise the pay of 947,000 people, or 29 percent of the workforce, according to a fact sheet from Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition that also backs the surtax amendment.
By Andy Metzger