Mass. minimum wage increases to $11 per hour

In Fight for $15, News by News Desk

Daily Free Press:

The statewide minimum wage increased from $10 an hour to $11 on Jan. 1, according to a press release issued by Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition that fights for higher minimum wage in Massachusetts.

This increase marks the third and final increase mapped out in the 2014 legislation that Raise Up Massachusetts negotiated with the state legislature.

This legislation aimed to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8 to $11 over three years, and to raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.63 to $3.75 per hour, according to the release.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office will ensure the well-being of all workers by taking action against employers who violate this new law, Emalie Gainey, a spokesperson for Healey, wrote in an email.

“The minimum wage increase provides additional security for our lowest paid workers,” Gainey wrote. “Our office will hold accountable employers who do not pay the minimum wage to ensure both that workers are paid the wages they are owed and that there is a level playing field for all businesses.”

Workers can report noncompliant employers by filing a Wage Complaint Form through the Attorney General’s website or calling the Fair Labor Hotline, according to a press release from Healey’s office.

Andrew Farnitano, a spokesperson for Raise Up Massachusetts, said the minimum wage increase is a win for workers, businesses and the economy.

“When workers who make minimum wage get a raise, they spend that extra money … at businesses in their community,” Farnitano said. “Those small businesses that are located in those communities will have more customers. [Those customers will] spend more money, and that will allow them to continue growing and hire more employees and create new jobs.”

The minimum wage increase has created 150,000 new jobs, according to Farnitano, leading to the lowest statewide unemployment rate since the economic recession in 2009.

Now, Raise Up Massachusetts is campaigning for a $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical leave for workers and a proposal called the Fair Share Amendment, which would create an additional tax on income above $1 million to support education and transportation in the state, Farnitano said.

Raise Up Massachusetts announced its campaign for legislation to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 in November, following examples set by states such as California and New York.

Barbara Fisher, a Dunkin’ Donuts worker and member of the Fight for $15, said in the press release that while the recent increase would allow her to afford basic necessities, a $15 wage would still be more beneficial.

“This increase is the step in the right direction, but without $15 I still will be unable to afford to rent an apartment while putting food on the table and keeping the lights on,” Fisher said.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the largest statewide association of Massachusetts employers, conducted surveys which found a $15 minimum wage would lead to higher costs for three-quarters of businesses in Massachusetts, according to a Jan. 3 post written by AIM Executive Vice President Christopher Geehern on the AIM blog.

A $15 minimum wage may force companies to postpone hiring new employees or leave the commonwealth area, according to the post.

“AIM believes that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, while emotionally appealing and politically expedient, is an ineffective way to address income inequality,” Geehern wrote.

Raise Up Massachusetts released a statement in reply to AIM on Jan. 3, claiming the wage increase would help the economy grow by leading low wage workers to become more active participants in the marketplace.

“Every time we talk about increasing the minimum wage, corporate lobbyists like AIM claim the sky will fall, but the evidence is clear: raising the minimum wage helps grow our economy from the bottom up by putting more money in the pockets of working people,” Raise Up Massachusetts wrote in the statement.

by Ezgi Toper. Haley Fritz contributed to the reporting of this article.