BOSTON—On June 20, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, establish a paid family and medical leave program, and create a permanent sales tax holiday. The bill, H.4640, is the product of months of deliberation between lawmakers, activists, and business groups.
Under the “grand bargain” bill, the hourly minimum wage will increase from $11 to $15 over a five-year period, rather than the 4 years proposed in the original legislation filed by the late Senator Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) and subsequently carried on by Friedman. It would also increase the tipped minimum wage from $3.75 an hour to $6.75 an hour over the same five-year period.
In addition, the bill would create a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program so that workers can care for themselves and their families without risk of pay cuts or job loss. With the passage of this landmark bill, Massachusetts becomes the third state, along with New York and California, to approve a $15 minimum wage and a statewide paid leave program.
“As our state becomes more expensive to live in, the need to ensure that our workers earn a living wage becomes more important,” said Friedman, a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “The compromise legislation passed by the Legislature will benefit low-income workers throughout the Commonwealth while providing a boost to our overall economy. This is a huge victory for Massachusetts working families and I’m so proud to have played a role in the ‘Fight for 15’!”
According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will benefit nearly 1 million workers statewide. Of those affected earners, 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.
Currently, only 13% of New England employers provide paid family and medical leave. H.4640 would guarantee workers up to 12 weeks of family leave and up to 20 weeks of medical leave. Workers would be eligible for the program after one year of work and must have worked 1,250 hours during the past 12 months. The program would not apply to small businesses with less than 50 employees.
Implementing a strong paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts would expand access to leave, reduce inequality for workers of color, low-wage earners, and women, and help prevent bankruptcies. Additionally, it would reduce employee turnover, keep women in the workforce, promote infant and maternal health, and decrease reliance on public assistance.
As part of the bargain, concessions were made to the retail industry, including a gradual end to time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays as well as the establishment of an annual sales tax holiday.
The final bill, H.4640, was signed into law on June 28, 2018.