Legislators in Massachusetts reached a historic deal last night that will make Massachusetts the third state in the country—after New York and California—to adopt a $15 minimum wage. The state will also join a growing number of states in establishing a basic right to paid family and medical leave for the state’s workers.
“Massachusetts workers face some of the highest costs of living in the country, and today’s victory marks an important step forward towards greater economic security for these workers,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
The agreement calls for gradually raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2023. Legislators set an important precedent for other states that are considering minimum wage increases by rejecting corporate lobbyists’ efforts to leave young workers behind. More than 104,000 teen workers between 16 and 19 years of age work in Massachusetts, and many depend on every dollar they earn to pay for college or help support their families. Including young workers in this historic raise shows that states can and should make all work pay.
The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, however, will only be raised from 30 percent to 45 percent of the full minimum wage. And in an unfortunate concession to corporate interest groups, the agreement eliminates an existing Massachusetts law requiring time-and-a-half overtime pay on Sundays for certain industries.
A $15 wage in Massachusetts shows that the Fight for $15 campaign continues to gain momentum. Since workers in New York first walked out of fast-food jobs in November 2012 to demand a $15 minimum wage and a union, more than 20 states and 40 cities have raised their minimum wage, with raises amounting to more than $61 billion. Additional campaigns to raise the minimum wage are underway in more than 15 states and cities, including New Jersey, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, all of which are also considering a $15 minimum wage.
The benefits for low-wage workers and their families from raising the minimum wage have been significant. In the face of broader economic trends that have led to stagnant and falling wages across the bottom of our economy, raising the minimum wage has reduced economic hardship, lifted workers out of poverty, and improved other life and health outcomes. We also know that raising the minimum wage increases consumer spending and so can boost demand for goods and services, keeping money circulating in the economy and creating a virtuous cycle that benefits workers, businesses, and communities.