Minimum Wage Hearing

Progressive Mass volunteers were at the State House this week to add our voices in demanding that the Massachusetts minimumunderpaid.jpg wage be increased. Boston Dig’s Alex Ramirez posted a great overview of the issues and testimony. We recommend you read the whole thing. An excerpt:

…Mass. Secretary of Labor Joanne Goldstein spoke in favor of an increase, saying that in Mass. “a single adult needs at least $13 an hour for basic needs. A single adult with one child needs at least $20 an hour. It’s impossible for an individual or family to live on minimum wage.”

She also addressed the issue of tipped workers, who haven’t seen a raise since 1999 and only earn 33 percent of minimum wage, about $2.63 an hour. The proposed bill would increase that to 70 percent, like Connecticut and New York.

While minimum wage remained stagnant, the cost of living in Mass. went up. Senate President Therese Murray pointed out a jarring gap: it costs $28,500 a year to be “economically independent” in Mass., but the average minimum wage workers only make $16,000.

One Wal-Mart employee said that low wages made it difficult for her to afford a home or even health insurance. Committee member Rep. Daniel Wolf asked if she was going to get covered by the state—and indeed it was now her only option.

“That’s corporate welfare,” said Wolf. “The state is subsidizing Wal-Mart’s low wages.”

One common concern was that an increase would cause job loss. However, Boston Federal Reserve Bank economist Alicia Sasser Modestino explained that past minimum wage increases resulted in “no large effect,” positive or negative, to employment. Other economists and analysts repeated this finding.

Randy Albelda, an economics professor at UMass Boston, dispelled the idea that most minimum workers are teenagers.“About half of [minimum wage workers] are primary workers,” she said, “the heads of their households.” A Mass. Budget and Policy Center report estimates an increase would affect 63,000 parents and their 124,000 children.

 Read the rest at: BATTLE AT THE STATE HOUSE: RAISE THE WAGE | DigBoston – http://bit.ly/11ckmrD

 Other Coverage:

From the AP

Steve Tolman, of the state AFL-CIO, said the increase makes up for the earnings erosion workers have suffered because the state minimum wage isn’t tied to inflation. “We shouldn’t ever call it a bill to raise the minimum wage,” Tolman said. “We should call it a bill to restore the minimum wage.”

from Mass Budget.

From MassLive – 

Supporters have argued that since the last increase five years ago inflation has eroded the buying power of the minimum wage. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center reports that the value of minimum wage is now equivalent to $7.41 for the 94,000 paid at the minimum level.

Murray has reinforced her calls for a debate on the minimum wage with statistics produced by the Crittenton Women’s Union Economic Independent Index showing that a minimum wage worker earns $16,704 annually. That salary falls below the federal poverty line and well below the $28,500 required for someone to be economically independent in Massachusetts, according to the organization.

“When you don’t make a living wage, government and businesses pay taxes that fill in that gap,” Murray told the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield in April. “So when you say government has grown too large, what you’re getting is government is paying for day care, for subsidized day care, for subsidized meals at school, breakfast, lunch and dinners and after-school programs. We’re paying for MassHealth and Medicaid. We’re paying for transportation. We’re paying for subsidized housing. We’re paying for fuel assistance in conjunction with the federal government. So you’re paying it anyway.”

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