Low-wage workers in 18 states getting New Year’s raise, but nothing for MA workers

Monday will be the first January 1st without a MA minimum wage increase in four years.

BOSTON – On January 1, 2018, low-wage workers in 18 states will receive a pay increase as state minimum wages rise. But for the first time in four years, Massachusetts minimum wage workers won’t see a boost in their paychecks.

“The only raises I’ve ever gotten from Burger King are those required by state law. I work hard every day to provide for my family, but it’s impossible to keep up with the rising cost of food, childcare, and rent when I’m paid so little,” said Christina Barnes, a member of the Fight for $15 and fast food worker. “If state law doesn’t change, Burger King is never going to increase my pay again. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 so that low-wage workers can afford to get ahead.”

Minimum wages will increase in 18 states and 20 cities on January 1, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). In nearby states, minimum wage workers in Maine, New York state, Rhode Island, and Vermont will receive raises ranging from 50¢ to $1.

“Our neighbors are getting raises this week, New York and California are moving toward $15, and seven states have already approved minimum wages that are higher than ours in Massachusetts,” said Lew Finfer, Co-Director of the faith-based Massachusetts Communities​ Action Network. “We’re falling behind other states, and working families are struggling to put food on the table as their bills keep increasing. We need action on a $15 minimum wage in 2018.”

Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, New York state, Washington state, and Oregon have all approved plans to increase their minimum wages to a rate above Massachusetts’s $11 minimum wage over the next two years, and California and New York state have $15 minimum wages scheduled, according to NELP. Legislative or ballot campaigns to raise state minimum wages to $15 are underway in ten other states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The Massachusetts minimum wage increased by $1 on each of the last three New Year’s Days, rising from $8 in 2014 to $11 last year. 2014 legislation that laid out those increases also increased the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to $3.75 per hour, up from $2.63 in 2014. The legislation contains no increases in the minimum wage going forward.

Since June 2014, the Massachusetts economy has added more than 211,000 jobs, and the state’s unemployment rate in 2016 and 2017 was lower than it’s been since 2001. [1]

“Over the last few years, we’ve shown that raising wages for working people lets them spend more money at businesses in their communities, boosting our economy from the ground up,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action. “It’s clear that a higher minimum wage helps families and strengthens our economy, but a full-time worker making our state’s minimum wage can’t afford to pay their bills or support a family. We need to raise it to $15 over the next four years.”

The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition collected 139,055 signatures this fall to qualify a $15 minimum wage question for the November 2018 ballot. The ballot question would raise the Massachusetts minimum wage, currently $11 an hour, by $1 each year over four years until it is $15 an hour in 2022. The minimum wage would then be adjusted each year to rise at the same rate as the cost of living.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 would raise the wages of roughly 943,000 workers, or 29 percent of the state’s workforce, according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. 90 percent of workers who would be affected are 20 years old or older, 56 percent are women, and 55 percent work full-time. Workers who are paid low wages include professions like nursing assistants, childcare providers and paramedics.

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a network of business owners and executives who believe a fair minimum wage makes good business sense, has released a statement signed by more than 200 Massachusetts business owners and executives who support gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. Raise Up Massachusetts has also released a statement signed by 90 Massachusetts economists in support of the minimum wage increase.

The question would also raise the minimum wage for tipped employees, currently $3.75 an hour, over four years until it is 60% of the full minimum wage, or $9 an hour, in 2022. It would then rise at the same rate as the cost of living, along with the full minimum wage.

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