The Associated Press

Mass. A Step Closer To Instituting Highest U.S. Minimum Wage

BOSTON — Massachusetts moved closer to instituting the nation’s highest minimum wage under a bill approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives.

The measure, which won Senate approval last week, would raise the state’s $8 per hour minimum wage in three increments to $11 per hour by 2017. A routine procedural vote is needed in the Senate before the bill is sent to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick for his expected signature.

Future increases in the minimum wage would not be automatically tied to inflation, as an earlier Senate version of the proposal would have done.

“This is a groundbreaking moment for Massachusetts,” said state Rep. Thomas Conroy, D-Wayland, during Wednesday’s debate.

He said many of the state’s estimated 600,000 minimum wage employees live in poverty despite having full-time jobs, while others are forced to work multiple jobs to support their families.

“This will be a huge benefit to them to meet their daily needs and hopefully allow them to grab on to a ladder of opportunity,” Conroy said.

The minimum wage would rise to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015; to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016; and finally to $11 on Jan. 1, 2017.

The measure would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, from the current $2.63 per hour to $3.75 per hour, a 31 percent increase and the first since 1999, Conroy said.

Critics of the bill, which passed on a 124-24 vote, said it would hurt small businesses.

“It’s too much, too fast, too soon,” state House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, said of the 38 percent increase in the minimum wage.

Republicans had called on lawmakers to consider other ways to help low-income workers, such as boosting the state’s earned income tax credit. Jones said if businesses were forced to cut jobs, it would hurt the very workers the bill was intended to help.

“If you’re one of those employees who is currently making $8, and you’re going to make $11 and not lose your job, (it) sounds like a good deal,” he said. “But if you’re making $8 and you might be one of those people who loses their job, it sounds like a lousy deal.”

Passage of the measure could forestall a drive to put a question before voters calling for a $10.50 per hour minimum wage, indexed to inflation.

The group Raise up Massachusetts called the measure a “positive step,” and said it would consider withdrawing its petition once the bill is signed by Patrick. Meanwhile, the group said, it has met a Wednesday deadline for submitting additional signatures to city and town clerks to earn a spot on the November ballot.

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  • Melissa Montana

    The Virginia Bill of Rights’ text that “all men are by nature equally free and independent”, has been largely replaced with a simplified expression of “free and equal” that conveys the idea of equal treatment before the law.

  • John Gatti Jr

    From: Massschusetts Whistleblower at Oversight Watch Massachusetts

    Massachusetts poised to raise Minimum Wage is meaningless and will not help those workers who are currently being cheated. There is little or nil enforcement in existing Minimum Wage, Child Labor, and Employment Laws in Massachusetts.

    Massachusetts was formerly the national leader in minimum wage, child labor, employment, and wage enforcement laws. Honest employers and their employees are being forced to compete unfairly against businesses that cheat.

    Most cheating businesses have little fear of being caught as the Attorney General and Workforce Development do not enforce the laws, rules, and regulations with adequate staffing, oversight, and prosecutions.

    The blame squarely falls on those elements in organized labor that destroyed the hard fought Secretariat of Labor in 1993 instead of monitoring and holding the agency accountable. The leader of the carnage was former Senate President, Labor lawyer, and then Ways and Means Chair Thomas Birmingham. Those labor bosses and Birmingham have failed to advocate and insure adequate resources and those agencies are doing their mandated functions. They continue to cover up their failure for their decisions with workers and the taxpayers continuing to suffer.

    It is unfortunate that workers who are exploited have to retain a lawyer for hire to obtain the fruits from their labor and government in their time of need is not there to help. Unfortunately, some of the elements from organized labor that sat by and covered up the destruction of Massachusetts employment law enforcement are now in charge of those government agencies.

    The message to those businesses who cheat, do so, the chances of getting caught is little or nil, and when caught pay up most times cents on the dollar if any. Massachusetts has welcomed businesses who cheat their employees and do not pay their fair share of taxes

  • jar1807

    I love the term procedural vote. Everything in this one party Valhalla for the left is procedural just like in places like Cuba.

  • Michael E

    Ugh. When will it end?

    So, not only do we have to give these people welfare checks, EBT cards, free housing, free tuition, free transportation, etc., they now want higher salaries? Good grief! I have student loans I pay back ($350/month), high rent costs ($1700/month), $350/month health insurance (from Aetna), $26/month car insurance (thank god for Insurance Panda), $400/month for food+drink, gas/tolls/parking ($150/month), and I work 60 hours a week. If anyone should be complaining, it should be me.

    Bring on the robots!

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