New $15 Minimum Wage Doesn’t Go Far Enough, Some Say

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New $15 Minimum Wage Doesn’t Go Far Enough, Some Say

Jiyu Shin, NECIR Summer Journalism Student, Student at Yongsan International School of Seoul

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Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill on Thursday morning that will raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts from $11 to $15 over the next five years.

The bill, nicknamed the “Grand Bargain,” also creates paid family and medical leave for workers, as well as an annual sales tax holiday. However, it eliminates the state’s time-and-a-half pay “Blue Laws,” which required owners to pay employees who worked on Sundays one and a half times the regular wage.

Many working near Boston University applauded the change, but wished that the legislation had gone further.

“I can’t get by with this,””

— Ainsley Bowen

“I can’t get by with this,” said Ainsley Bowen, who works at City Convenience near BU, referring to the current minimum wage. He wondered aloud how some of his colleagues in their thirties manage to survive with so many more responsibilities than he has. “I still think it should be higher,” he said.

Massachusetts should raise the minimum wage even higher, so it can lead the country and become “even more of a progressive bellwether,” said Zachary Bos, a BU alumnus. Only two other states in the nation have a $15 minimum wage: New York and California.

“There’s an opportunity for us to look at $18 an hour,” he said. That would allow other states to advocate for higher wages, he contends, letting them argue that “Massachusetts went off the deep end with their $18, we’re gonna go $15.”

Suddenly, $15 an hour “looks more reasonable,” he added. Rachel Thomas, who works at BU, worries that by the time the minimum wage
reaches $15 in five years, the cost of living will be so high, that the extra money may not be enough to help people cover their expenses. For a lot of her friends, “it’s a big deal trying to pay your bills, trying to be a student.”

Most Boston University students, though, were grateful for the new law.

“It would make my life easier,” said Anselma Lopez, who works three jobs, one of which is minimum wage.

While the House debated the bill, businesses supported by the Retailers Association promoted a sub-minimum wage for teenagers.

Some students agreed with the idea: a higher minimum wage might not be as important for most teens, Lopez said. In most households, “adults actually bring in the income.”

Added Bos: If teens need to support their family, they need to be helped with “other forms of economic benefit or social support.”

Workers at Riceburg, an Asian food truck, already get paid $15 an hour. But Wei Yang, the owner, says he’s glad that other business owners will get to gradually increase their wages. “If you jump from $11 to $15, that might be difficult for them to accept.”