BOSTON – Raise Up Massachusetts today announced the launch of a signature gathering campaign to put two questions on the November 2018 ballot: paid family medical leave and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. The powerful grassroots coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions is submitting language to the Attorney General tomorrow in the first step towards winning paid leave and a $15 minimum wage on the ballot.
“Nobody should be paid so little they can’t afford basic necessities, and no one should have to choose between working at the job they need to pay the bills and caring for themselves or the family they love in a time of crisis,” said Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice and a co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts. “Our ballot questions to raise the minimum wage and ensure access to paid family and medical leave will help working people in Massachusetts make ends meet.”
Raise Up Massachusetts collected more than 350,000 signatures in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of two ballot initiatives: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers. In June 2014, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation raising the minimum wage from $8 to $11 over three years. Raise Up Massachusetts then led the campaign to ensure access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth by passing Question 4 in November 2014.
“Since our diverse coalition came together, we’ve raised wages and won benefits for over a million working people in Massachusetts,” said Lew Finfer, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network and a co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts. “By organizing people where they live, where they work, and where they worship, we are building a majority movement to create an economy that that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity.”
The coalition also collected signatures and won two consecutive votes by the Legislature to place the Fair Share Amendment on next year’s ballot. The Fair Share Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution will create an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income above $1 million. The new revenue generated by the tax, approximately $1.9 billion in 2019 dollars, could only be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.
“By raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensuring access to paid family and medical leave, and investing in our transportation and public education systems with the Fair Share Amendment, Massachusetts can build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top,” said Tyrék D. Lee, Sr., Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU. “We’re committed to winning this agenda in the Legislature or at the ballot box.”
The Attorney General must approve the language of both questions for the ballot, at which time the Secretary of State will provide the petition forms, which must be signed by supporters by December 6. Raise Up Massachusetts is already gearing up to collect at least 200,000 signatures to place these two measures before Massachusetts voters. After signatures are collected, the Legislature has until the end of June 2018 to act before the questions go to the ballot.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
Raise Up Massachusetts’ paid leave ballot question would create a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program for Massachusetts workers, providing up to 16 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, to care for a new child, or to meet family needs arising from a family member’s active duty military service (family leave); and up to 26 weeks of job-protected paid leave to recover from a worker’s own serious illness or injury (medical leave), or to care for a seriously ill or injured service member.
“Just three weeks after giving birth to my son by c-section, I went back to my job as an early education teacher, making minimum wage, because the bills have to be paid,” said Beth Santos-Fauteux of New Bedford. “As I was cuddling and coddling other people’s children, my brand new baby didn’t have a chance to bond with me. Paid leave would ensure that all babies have the same chance at leading a positive and productive life with proper social, emotional and cognitive development leading to a better future for society.”
The question prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off under these conditions, and workers taking paid leave would receive insurance benefits equal to 90% of their average weekly wages, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000. Benefits would be funded through employer contributions to the new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund (0.63% of weekly wages), and employers could require employees to contribute up to 50% of the trust fund contributions.
While the United States is the only developed nation that does not offer paid time off after the birth of a child, California, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey all have paid family and medical leave, and both workers and businesses report positive effects. Because employees on leave receive their benefits from a state trust fund, businesses can afford to hire temporary replacement workers with the money they would otherwise use to pay the employee taking leave. Six years after California’s law was implemented, 89 to 99 percent of employers reported that paid family and medical leave had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover, and employee morale.
“When I gave birth to my daughter, I took exactly 12 days off after her birth. I might have taken a little more time if paid leave had been in effect and covered a portion of my salary,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bradt, owner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem. “I look forward to being able to provide a paid family and medical leave for my employees. If each week I invest a few dollars for each employee and they match it out of their paycheck, we will ensure that everyone in Massachusetts has a safety net for family illness, adoption, or the birth of a child.”
$15 Minimum Wage
Raise Up Massachusetts’ $15 minimum wage ballot question would raise the Massachusetts minimum wage, currently $11 an hour, by $1 each year over four years until it is $15 an hour in 2022. The minimum wage would then be adjusted each year to rise at the same rate as the cost of living.
“I work at Dunkin’ Donuts and make $11 per hour following the increase to the state minimum wage that took place in January. I’ve been working full-time since I was in high school, helping my mom, who is disabled, with the household bills. While every dollar counts, it’s still not enough. I work just to pay my bills,” said Jena Benson of Dorchester. “I’m currently enrolled and taking classes at Bunker Hill Community College with the hopes that when I graduate I’ll be hired for a job that pays a livable wage, but that’s not guaranteed-not until the minimum wage is raised. I work with people who have families, degrees and professional experience in other industries but still only make minimum wage.”
Increasing the minimum wage to $15 would raise the wages of roughly 1.1 million workers, or 33 percent of the state’s workforce, according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. 91 percent of workers who would be affected are 20 years old or older, 55 percent are women, and 58 percent work full-time. Workers who are paid low wages include professions like nursing assistants, childcare providers and paramedics.
The question would also raise the minimum wage for tipped employees, currently $3.75 an hour, over four years until it is 60% of the full minimum wage, or $9 an hour, in 2022. It would then rise at the same rate as the cost of living, along with the full minimum wage.
Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for all of us, collected more than 350,000 signatures in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of two ballot initiatives: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers. In June 2014, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation giving Massachusetts the highest statewide minimum wage in the country. Raise Up Massachusetts then led the campaign to ensure access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth by passing Question 4 in November 2014. Now, Raise Up Massachusetts is working to create a paid family and medical leave program, raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, and pass the Fair Share Amendment to invest in transportation and public education with a tax on annual income above $1 million. Learn more at raiseupma.org.