The Associated Press

In Boston Visit, Sen. Warren Pushes Minimum Wage Hike

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, of Ill., listen as Emmanuel Sebit, an immigrant from South Sudan and a baggage handler at Logan Airport, speaks during a minimum wage roundtable discussion at Boloco in Boston. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, of Ill., listen as Emmanuel Sebit, an immigrant from South Sudan and a baggage handler at Logan Airport, speaks during a minimum wage roundtable discussion at Boloco in Boston. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

BOSTON — Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois stopped by a burrito chain restaurant in Boston on Monday to advocate for an increase in the state and federal minimum wage.

“No one who works full-time should live in poverty,” Warren said at a Boloco restaurant.

A bill to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts to $11 an hour by January 2016 passed the Senate in November and was sent to the House, which has not yet taken action. A separate initiative being pushed by a labor-backed group would put a question on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10.50 an hour over two years. Both would automatically link future increases to the state’s rate of inflation.

The minimum wage in Massachusetts has not increased in five years.

Warren and Durbin were joined by John Pepper, a founder of Boloco. The restaurant pays workers a minimum of $9 an hour – a dollar more than state law requires. Pepper said he rewards workers by paying them a more dignified wage.

Emmanuel Sebit, 21, earns the state minimum wage at Boston Logan International Airport, where he handles luggage. He said he immigrated to the U.S. from South Sudan last year to become a lawyer but has struggled to get by.

“Raising the minimum wage can help my life; it can change my life,” he said.

Durbin and Warren also are trying to build support for raising the national minimum wage. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

Critics say a big increase in the minimum wage would burden Massachusetts businesses and could cause the state unemployment rate to rise.

“It will make employers and job creators uncompetitive,” Republican state Sen. Bruce Tarr said. “This is a multistep issue that involves much more than raising the minimum wage.”

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  • Thinkfreeer

    Using “No one who works full-time should live in poverty,” Warren said, as justification to raise the minimum wage, it follows that the minimum wage should apply only to full time workers, right? Should we also make it apply only to people who have to pay for their own living expenses?

    • Mark in Danvers

      I’m pretty sure that minimum wage applies for both full and part-time workers. What she means is that people that are working full-time at minimum wage should not have to live in poverty

      • Thinkfreeer

        Unless you are on her staff or have discussed this withe her, you don’t know what she means, and are guessing. She is using the observation as a reason to raise the minimum for all workers. I disagree.

        While I might agree that people should be able to earn enough to not live in poverty, I don’t think raising the minimum wage for all workers is an effective way to accomplish that. There are people who would like to have a job and make some money who are not responsible to pay living expenses for themselves or a family, Therefore, why wouldn’t it be appropriate to allow a lower wage for these workers?

        • Mark in Danvers

          It is clear what she is saying and I happen to agree.

          But moving on, you make a really good point about part-time workers and people that are fine with low wage (ie. High school kids, summer interns etc.) and there are certainly other valid arguments against raising the minimum wage:
          1) raising minimum wage forces employers to lay off or hire fewer workers
          2) manufacturing jobs will move (or stay) off-shore
          (I have counterpoints to both arguments)

          The reality is that there is a very large population that depend on full-time minimum wage work to get by and are in poverty, while the businesses that hire these people are doing fine. Raising minimum wage will be a huge benefit for these people, and really the businesses will have only a moderate increase in expenses. Most businesses hire the minimum number of workers to meet their needs regardless of the minimum wage- therefore for the most part increasing minimum wage does not force them to lay off workers unless they really can’t afford to pay them. As for manufacturing jobs, these are blue collar jobs that require at least some skill and are typically above minimum wage anyway; so the proposed increase should have little effect on these either way.
          Of course, I don’t have any numbers to back up my arguments.

          As for the high school kid with the summer job, maybe he can afford to buy some flowers for his girlfriend. or better yet start saving up for college.

  • Vandermeer

    Go Elizabeth… hard work, boring work, dead end work… when people do this day after day faithfully, they deserve a living wage!

  • donniethebrasco

    Coming to a fast food restaurant near you – Burger Bots. Minimum wage and liberal immigration policies kill jobs.

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