Why is legislation to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts stalling?

A bill that could increase the wages of 29% of workers in Massachusetts has sat in committee for almost a year. The legislation, which was filed by Senator Ken Donnelly of Arlington, now deceased, and Representative Dan Donahue of Worcester, would increase the state’s minimum wage by $1 a year until it is $15/hr in 2021. At that point, it would be indexed to the cost of living, according to the bostonglobe.com.

This legislation would fundamentally change the lives of a quarter of the state’s citizens, as well as their families. Throughout the country, women disproportionately work the majority of minimum wage jobs. The Bay State is no exception. The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition estimates that of the 29% of workers who would see a raise if the minimum wage increased, 56% are women.

Bill S.1004 in the state senate and H.2365 in the house would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. Tipped workers include but are not limited to hairdressers, waitstaff, valets and car wash employees. These workers make $3.75/hr in Massachusetts, and are subjected to financial uncertainty. For tipped workers, the bill would increase their wages to $9/hr by 2022. Bill H.2172 would also “establish a public program into which employers and employees would pay the average of a cup of coffee a week.” This money would be available to employees during family or medical leave.

While nothing concrete has been discussed openly by politicians, but Andrew Farnitano, a spokesman for Raise Up Massachusetts, said they “are prepared to go to the ballot, but we’re very optimistic.” If the two bills do not pass by June, the coalition’s petitions would become ballot questions in the state’s November election.

Representative Paul Brodeur of Melrose, the co-chairman of the Committee for Workforce and Labor Development, has suggested that a compromise will take place.

“We are working diligently to strike the right balance between fair compensation for workers and ensuring that Massachusetts businesses can remain competitive. I’m confident that these parties have engaged in a good faith effort, and I am eager to find a legislative compromise which works for everyone,” Brodeur told the bostonglobe.com.

When so many working class citizens and their families stand to benefit, it would be a surprise if it took a ballot question to pass such popular legislation. If politicians are not motivated by their constituents well-being, then nothing will get them to increase the paychecks of over a quarter of working citizens.

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