BOSTON — On Tuesday, Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of S.1004, An Act to improve the Commonwealth’s economy with a strong minimum wage and a strong tipped minimum wage, an initiative originally filed by the late Senator Donnelly. Friedman is leading the effort in the Senate to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“Anyone in the Commonwealth who works full-time should be able to earn enough to support themselves and their families. Plain and simple,” said Sen. Friedman in her testimony to the Committee. “Although the Legislature has made progress towards this end by increasing the minimum wage, in several steps, to $11 per hour, too many low-wage families still struggle to get by.”
S.1004 would increase the minimum wage from $11.00 to $15.00 per hour by 2021, and raise the tipped minimum wage from $3.75 to $15.75 per hour by 2025. Beginning on January 1, 2022, the minimum wage would start increasing based on increases in the Consumer Price Index, thereby preventing further decline in value in the future.
At today’s $11 minimum wage, a full-time worker working 40 hours a week with no vacation would earn just $22,880 annually. When adjusting for the cost of living, the $11 minimum wage is still worth less than the state’s minimum wage in 1968.
“This decline in purchasing power means low-wage families have to work longer hours just to achieve the standard of living that was considered the bare minimum almost half a century ago,” explained Friedman. “Giving these working families a raise should not be a controversial decision.”
According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would benefit nearly 1 million workers statewide. Of those affected earners, less than 10% are teenagers, over half are women, and almost two-thirds work full-time. Additionally, nearly one-third of children in the Commonwealth come from a household that would see a raise in their incomes.
To date, S.1004 has gained widespread support, including 21 Senate co-sponsors, labor unions, religious groups, community organizations, and advocacy groups such as Raise Up Mass, ROC-Boston, Business For a Fair Wage, and United For a Fair Economy.
Raise Up Massachusetts also recently released a statement signed by 90 Massachusetts economists in support of a $15 minimum wage, and Business For a Fair Minimum Wage released a statement signed by over 200 Massachusetts business owners and executives who support the gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021.
In addition, there are a growing number of employers across the country that have raised their starting pay scales to $15 or higher, including insurers and banks, such as Allstate, Aetna, Nationwide, and USAA; tech leaders such as Facebook; and major healthcare and nursing home employers in at least 6 states including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. These employers understand that higher wages mean less turnover, less time and money spent on recruiting new employees, and a more stable workforce overall.
In concluding her testimony, Friedman said, “Ensuring our workers are able to earn a living wage is good for our economy, good for our businesses and most importantly, it is the right thing to do for the hard-working residents of the Commonwealth.”
Friedman currently serves as a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. She represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.