Raise Up Massachusetts to Drop Minimum Wage, Paid Leave Ballot Questions After Historic Win for Working People

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

Grassroots Coalition Opposes Legislature’s Decision to Eliminate Sunday & Holiday Time-and-a-Half Pay, Inadequate Increase for Tipped Workers

BOSTON – The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions today announced that if Governor Baker signs the ballot question bill passed by the Legislature last week, the coalition will drop its minimum wage and paid leave ballot questions. Raise Up Massachusetts issued the following statement:

“Because of the incredible work of dozens of grassroots organizations and thousands of volunteers who collected signatures to qualify our questions for the ballot, Massachusetts workers will have a $15 minimum wage and the strongest, most progressive paid family and medical leave program in the nation.

“Today, Raise Up Massachusetts’ grassroots committee voted that we will not take our minimum wage question to the ballot if the Governor signs the legislation passed last week.

“We’ve won the Fight for $15, and we’ve won the fight to ensure that workers can take job-protected paid time off from work to take care of themselves or a family member after a medical emergency or the birth or adoption of a new child. We also beat back proposals to create a teen sub-minimum wage that would hurt young workers’ ability to help support their family budgets or save for college.

“We are profoundly disappointed that the Legislature conceded to the corporate agenda and decided to eliminate Sunday and holiday time-and-a-half pay, cutting wages for thousands of retail workers who are working on Sundays and holidays to pay their bills. We are troubled by the inadequate increase in the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, which will leave too many workers facing financial uncertainty and leave them vulnerable to harassment, discrimination, and wage theft. We are also seriously concerned that the minimum wage legislation will not cover all workers, including some public employees. Though the Legislature calls this a ‘bargain,’ our coalition opposes these aspects of the bill that the Legislature unilaterally passed last week.

“Since Raise Up Massachusetts came together in 2013, we have nearly doubled wages for hundreds of thousands of working people, won best-in-the-nation benefits for workers and their families, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. These victories belong to the thousands of labor, community, and faith-based activists who worked to qualify our questions for the ballot.

“We will continue fighting for the retail and grocery workers, tipped workers, and municipal workers who were left behind by the Legislature in this bill. We will continue to do this work until every worker in Massachusetts has a livable wage, family-supporting benefits, and a transportation and education system that lifts people up, funded by the wealthy paying their fair share. We’re not willing to wait to win the gains that Massachusetts workers need. We are only getting started.”

Background
Last fall, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions collected a total of 274,652 signatures to qualify paid leave and $15 minimum wage questions for the ballot, all without using paid signature gathering companies. The coalition collected 139,055 signatures for a $15 minimum wage and 135,597 for paid family and medical leave, well beyond the required 64,750 signatures for each petition.

This spring, Raise Up Massachusetts collected more than 72,000 additional signatures in order to qualify the questions for the ballot. Last week, the Legislature passed a bill that creates a paid family and medical leave program and raises the minimum wage to $15 over five years.

Paid Family and Medical Leave
The bill will create a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program for most Massachusetts workers, providing up to 12 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); up to 20 weeks of job-protected paid leave to recover from a worker’s own serious illness or injury (medical leave); and up to 26 weeks of job-protected leave to care for a seriously ill or injured service member. Workers could take a total of up to 26 weeks of leave in a single year. This is more job-protected leave than any other state provides.

The bill prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off under these conditions. Workers taking paid leave would receive wage replacement benefits from the new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund of up to 80 percent of workers’ wages up to a certain amount, and 50 percent of their wages above that amount, to a maximum of $850 per week. This is a progressive wage replacement system that recognizes the particular challenges lower-wage workers face by replacing a substantial share of their lost income, while still ensuring meaningful benefits for all workers.

The benefits would be funded by payroll contributions equal to .0063 of a workers’ weekly wages, split effectively 50-50 between employers and employee contributions. That’s the most progressive cost-sharing system of any state paid leave program. Having paid family and medical leave will help us compete with California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, which have had paid family and medical leave for years, and New York and Washington states, which have passed paid leave bills that are being implemented now.

$15 Minimum Wage
The bill will raise the minimum wage from the current $11 an hour to $12 in 2019, $12.75 in 2020, $13.50 in 2021, $14.25 in 2022, and $15 in 2023, making Massachusetts the third state to adopt a $15 minimum wage, after California and New York. It will also raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers from the current $3.75 an hour to $4.35 in 2019, $4.95 in 2020, $5.55 in 2021, $6.15 in 2022, and $6.75 in 2023.

Raise Up Massachusetts estimates that this bill will raise the wages of nearly 1 million Massachusetts workers, more than a quarter of the state’s workforce. Roughly 90 percent of workers who would be affected are over 20 years old, roughly 56 percent are woman, and roughly 55 percent work full-time. It would also raise the wages of roughly 24 percent of all working parents in Massachusetts, and more than a quarter of all kids in the Commonwealth live in households that would benefit from the increase.

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 would get a raise from this legislation. That means more money they can spend at local businesses. More than 300 Massachusetts business owners and executives, and 90 Massachusetts economists, have signed statements supporting a minimum wage increase to $15.

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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 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 and raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour. Learn more at raiseupma.org.