Across the country efforts to increase the minimum wage are being debated, fought for, and increasingly victorious. State level campaigns have been effective in many places, including my home state of Massachusetts where the threat of a ballot initiative forced the legislature to come to an agreement that was signed by then Governor Deval Patrick in 2014. The bill incrementally increased the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2015 followed by increase to $10 on January 1, 2016, and a peak increase to $11 will come in 2017.
At the time, the effort was hailed as a great success. National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke at the bill signing along with representatives from various consumer and labor groups, including the progressive business group, Alliance for Business Leadership. Together these groups composed the Raise Up Massachusetts (RUM) coalition. This victory added to a growing wave of attention to the country’s failure to keep its basic wage in line with the rising cost of living.
One important takeaway from the success of the RUM coalition was the diversity of tactics utilized in orchestrating their plan. The effort for an increased minimum wage was a multipronged approach, pushing both a ballot initiative and a legislative strategy.
As the political demand to raise the wage grew through the process of the ballot initiative, so was the willingness of legislators to come to the table and agree to support a wage increase. As a result, a deal was struck and the legislative victory was had for $11 per hour by 2017. From there, the RUM coalition suspended the public vote for a minimum wage increase and directed their energy and effort in the form of another ballot initiative, only this time is was to provide workers with earned sick leave. Again, the coalition was successful and voters approved that ballot initiative in 2014.
Since that time, many other successful campaigns and proposals have targeted a much higher wage of $15 per hour. In retrospect, perhaps the RUM coalition may have given in for too small of an increase. Yet in an interesting and inspiring twist, some employers now are raising their minimum wage to $15 voluntarily. In particular, hospitals including Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, and Boston Medical Center are leading the way.
As the political pressure to increase the minimum wage builds, it will continue to manifest itself through market forces and the actions of institutional leadership at the board and officer level of these large employers.
But we must keep pushing.
Mr. Edmundson co-founded WGA in 1983. He became CEO in 1997 and has since grown the firm to be one of the largest independent brokerages in the country.
Mr. Edmundson is a Director of the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB), in Washington, D.C. He is Chair of The Alliance for Business Leadership (formerly the Progressive Business Leaders Network). He is a past President of the Insurance Library Association of Boston. Mr. Edmundson served as the Chairman of Affordable Care Today, a coalition of business, consumer, provider, and labor organizations that led the campaign for Massachusetts Healthcare Reform in 2006. He serves on the Board of Overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is a Trustee of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Mr. Edmundson is a Trustee of the Trustees of Reservations, a conservation organization.
He is an honors graduate of Amherst College, with a B.S. in Psychology/Neuroscience, where he was elected to Sigma Xi, the national scientific honor society. Mr. Edmundson received his Masters of Business Administration degree with honors from Babson College. He also received a Masters of Public Policy degree from the Kennedy School at Harvard University.