State Raises Minimum Wage to $15 in “Grand Bargain” Bill

Avani Kalra

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Massachusetts will increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years, becoming the third state in the country to mandate such a high minimum. Students of all ages at BU work minimum wage jobs in addition to attending classes, and expect this wage raise to affect their lives significantly.

Gov. Charlie Baker signed the legislation last week, which has been called the “Grand Bargain” bill. Not only does it raise the minimum wage, but it also will  create a paid family leave policy. Workers can get up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 of paid leave for personal health issues.

The minimum wage will increase by one dollar every year until it is $15. New York and California are the only two states in the country with such high minimum wages.

The legislation eliminates efforts to put a question on the November ballot concerning the minimum wage. If the proposed ballot question had been approved, some workers in the state would have seen their wages grow even more. The ballot question raised pay for tipped workers and also kept the so-called “Blue Law” that allowed employees who work on Sundays and holidays to earn time-and-a-half. The new minimum wage law eliminates the Blue Laws.  

Raise Up Massachusetts, which had lobbied for the change over the past five years, called the legislation “a victory” for the working class. Many people earning minimum wage work three or more jobs, and still cannot afford pay for food, heating, or rent, the group contends.  

BU students who make minimum wage were excited about the change. “Anything that helps me make rent every month, that’s a great thing,” said Julia, a BU senior. “It’s ridiculous how much it costs to live here.”  

Many BU students had never heard of the legislation, but were supportive of its contents. Many were focused on the cost of living in Boston, particularly with regard to housing, with one woman saying that her rent had skyrocketed by $300 in recent years.  

Although members of the BU community are supportive of the new law, some would have prefered a ballot initiative.  “I feel like this decision should be in the hands of people, as opposed to our legislators,” Nasi Baruksiadi, the location manager for BU Starbucks, said. “It was an issue brought forth by the people, and the decisions should be in our hands.”

Nasi Baruksiadi, who manages the Starbucks near BU, says it is clear that her coffee shop’s budget will need to be increased. But she also sees benefits for Starbucks. “I think that money can come from Starbucks, and hopefully BU…” she said. “With an increase in minimum wage we’ll see a lot more job applications. That’s great.”

It is expected that, with a raise in the minimum wage, teenages wages will differ further from those for adults. Regardless, students around BU are largely in support of the bill. “The gap is already big,” Baruksiadi said. “Taxes help to minimize the gap between the groups, and also either way the introduction of the bill will increase minimum wage for those under twenty. It is worth it.”

The law also eliminates the “Blue Laws”. This change has received strong opposition from some. “I think this is a huge deal,” one student said. “The reason people go to work on holidays is to make more. If I’m not making more, why would I go?”