AIMING HIGH FOR AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

Despite the economic recovery and low unemployment, too many Massachusetts families are falling behind

Let's Aim High

While those at the top have done well, middle class and low-income families are struggling to get ahead. The income gap here in Massachusetts is one of the worst in the country and is growing. We need to do all we can to give everyone a fair shot. That’s why I support raising the minimum wage and paid family and medical leave.

Raising the Minimum Wage

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found that increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021 would raise the wages of nearly 950,000 workers, or 29 percent of the state’s workforce. Over 90 percent of workers who would be affected are over 20 years old, 56 percent are women, and 57 percent work full-time. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021 would also raise the wages of nearly a quarter of all working parents in Massachusetts.

For these reasons, I support increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021. We would not be the first to do so. Cities from Seattle, Washington to San Marcos, Texas have already raised their minimum wages to $15 per hour. At the state level California, New York and the District of Columbia have all enacted measures that raise their minimum wages to $15. Minimum wages are rising across the country: twelve states began this calendar year with higher minimum wages as a result of ballot initiatives and legislation, two more will increase mid-year, and seven others have risen this year as a result of indexing state minimum wages to inflation. Impacts on employment levels and business failure rates have been negligible to non-existent, and higher business costs have been largely offset by higher consumer spending. At the same time, research shows that higher minimum wages have positive impacts for workers and their families, including reducing poverty and reliance on taxpayer-funded safety net programs and improving infant health and adult mental health.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would still result in an annual salary of only $31,200, an insufficient amount to cover basic living expenses for many families in Massachusetts. Our long-term goal needs to be to ensure everyone who works hard and plays by the rules earns a living wage sufficient to cover basic living expenses. In order to further relieve the cost burdens on working families and help them get ahead, we must also take steps to make basic necessities and supports more affordable, such as housing, health care, childcare, preschool and higher education (all of which are being addressed in separate issue briefs).

Paid Family Leave

Massachusetts is lagging behind when it comes to giving families the ability to care for loved ones without the risk of losing their jobs or income they need to support their families. California, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have paid family and medical leave. Making it possible for employees to take job-protected, paid leave to recover from a serious illness or injury, to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or to care for a new child is the right thing to do. According to the Raise Up Coalition, 1.2 million Massachusetts workers risk losing their jobs if they take leave for a medical emergency or birth of a baby.