BOSTON – Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions behind ballot questions to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and create a paid family and medical leave insurance program for Massachusetts workers, today released the following letter to Senate President Chandler and Speaker DeLeo. A copy of the letter can be found here.
June 7, 2018
Dear Senate President Chandler and Speaker DeLeo,
As the more than 100 community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions that make up the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, and on behalf of the 274,652 voters who signed petitions last year to qualify paid leave and $15 minimum wage questions for the ballot, we are writing to update you on the state of our negotiations on these two issues, as well as the $1.25 billion sales tax cut question proposed by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.
For the last six months, Raise Up Massachusetts representatives from the Alliance for Business Leadership, the Coalition for Social Justice, Greater Boston Legal Services, and SEIU Local 509 have engaged in extremely productive conversations with a group of business organizations on the design and structure of a paid family and medical leave insurance program. Under the leadership of Chairmen Brodeur and Lewis, and with productive contributions from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, and the Springfield Regional Chamber, we’ve reached agreement on most aspects of a paid leave program that we believe could pass the Legislature with the support of both our coalition and the business groups, and we are very close to resolving the remaining provisions.
In an attempt to resolve all three ballot questions through the legislative process and at your request, we widened the scope of our conversations to include our $15 minimum wage question and the $1.25 billion sales tax cut question proposed by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. Representatives from our community, faith, and labor coalition have engaged in this process in good faith and offered meaningful concessions on all aspects of each of the ballot questions, with special attention given to the concerns of small, independent businesses.
However, the latest proposal we have received from the Retailers Association continues to insist on anti-worker changes that would violate our coalition’s core principles by harming workers or leaving vulnerable families behind. Clearly the Retailers Association is using its sales tax cut ballot question as a threat to gain concessions on regressive policies that would never pass in the Legislature, or on the ballot, on their own. Retailers Association President Jon Hurst even admitted in writing that the Retailers Association filed the sales tax cut ballot question “to push back and to create leverage” against the minimum wage and paid leave proposals and other issues.
Policies such as a sub-minimum wage for teens or the elimination of Sunday time-and-a-half pay would hurt some of our most vulnerable workers and their families, and we cannot support or accept them. As a result, the negotiations have reached a standstill when it comes to agreement on the $15 minimum wage proposal.
If we cannot reach agreement with the Retailers Association on all three ballot questions, we believe it is time for the Legislature to move forward and pass paid family and medical leave and a $15 minimum wage, with no teen sub-minimum wage or changes to Sunday time-and-a-half pay. We are continuing to gather the signatures needed to take both of our questions to the ballot and are fully prepared to win them there if necessary.
As stated above, we have engaged in this process in good faith, made considerable concessions on all three ballot questions, and put our best ideas forward to reach a fair settlement while staying true to our core values. We have been met by the Retailers Association with repeated delaying tactics and unrealistic proposals that would hurt vulnerable workers.
We believe there is a clear path to legislative passage of a paid leave program that both sides can support, and we will gladly continue to work with Chairmen Brodeur and Lewis, as well as the business groups that have been extremely productive and reasonable throughout our paid leave design discussions, to finalize legislation over the next few weeks.
Four years ago, the Legislature avoided a ballot initiative by passing a sensible minimum wage increase that moved all workers forward. We hope you will do so again, passing $15 minimum wage legislation we can all celebrate, with a 50 percent tipped credit, no teen sub-minimum wage, and no elimination of Sunday time-and-a-half pay.
Raise Up Massachusetts