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New year, new minimum wage in Massachusetts.
The state's pay floor rises to $11 an hour on Jan. 1, the third and final step-up outlined in a 2014 law. That law called for the minimum wage to increase incrementally from $8 an hour to $11 over three years.
Also rising as of 2017: the minimum wage for service workers who receive tips, from $3.35 per hour to $3.75.
As it's the third planned increase, Bill Rennie, vice president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, says businesses have budgeted for the higher pay floor in 2017.
"While the minimum wage will be increasing by $1 on Jan. 1," Rennie said, "that really has an added effect [for retailers] on Sunday; it's really a $1.50 increase on Sundays."
The minimum wage has long been debated. Critics of a higher one say it just increases labor costs, which force businesses to then raise prices and/or cut other wages, benefits or jobs. Backers of a higher minimum wage say it boosts worker earnings, leading to more spending overall in the community.
Many in Massachusetts are already looking beyond the $11 minimum wage.
After discussions at the local level among municipal politicians, the union-affiliated group Raise Up Massachusetts in November began advocating for a $15 statewide pay floor, calling it "the next step in the campaign for livable wages."
Rennie says that's been more of a topic of conversation among RAM's members than the impending $11-an-hour minimum.
"[We're already hearing that] even though we're just now going to $11, suddenly they want to start talking about $15," he said, "and that is where our members get extremely concerned."
There's been a lot of activity around state minimum wages this year. California and New York, along with Washington, D.C., enacted laws to raise their respective pay floors to $15 an hour over the next several years. And just in November, voters in four more states -- Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington -- approved state minimum wages of at least $12 an hour by 2020.
Many other states will see their minimum wages increase Jan. 1 as well, including the aforementioned Maine (to $9 first), Connecticut (to $10.10) and Vermont (to $10).
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