Minimum Wage, Ballot v Legislation

Massachusetts could soon become the nation’s third state to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, following New York and California. However, Boston residents are divided over how to accomplish the state’s wage increase.

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Minimum Wage, Ballot v Legislation

Reena Zuckerman, NECIR Summer Journalism Student, Student at Gann Academy and Writer at Gann's Shevoun Hatichon Paper, Waltham MA

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While some favor a new state law, which would raise the minimum wage at a quicker pace, others want the issue decided by a ballot measure that could give some workers a chance to make more money. The ballot measure would increase pay for tipped workers and let employees who work on Sundays continue to be paid time-and-a-half.

“Massachusetts residents [should] get to actually decide,” said Yara, a Boston University rising senior, arguing for the ballot measure. Another student, Maggie, agrees: “It is more [about] the public’s opinion.”

Others think that the issue should be solved on Beacon Hill. “It should be legislation,” said Cateia, an economist standing in front of the Communications School. Kati, a BU staff member added, the minimum wage should not be “a question of democracy.”

The minimum wage, created under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, is currently $11 in the state of Massachusetts, and $7.25 nationally. Deval Patrick was the last governor to raise the minimum wage, which he increased from $9 to $11 in 2017.

Gov. Charles Baker is debating whether to sign a bill, dubbed the “Grand Bargain,” which would not only raise the minimum wage but would also include paid family and medical leave and a mandated annual August sales-tax holiday.It would also slowly phase out time-and-a-half on Sundays, leaving Rhode Island the only state to mandate time-and-a-half on Sundays.

The ballot measure would raise tipped workers’ wages to $9 by 2022. The legislation could be a worse deal for some Massachusetts workers, raising wages for tipped workers from $3.75 to just $6.25.

Many polls show that the ballot measure would pass in November. Governor Baker could sign the legislation at any time. If he does, then Raise Up, a worker advocacy group, said it would drop its efforts to get a minimum wage question on the November ballot.