An estimated 600,000 workers in Massachusetts will see their hourly pay increase from $8 to $11 in the next three years, thanks to a new law signed on June 26 by Gov. Deval Patrick.
With support from organized labor, business leaders and advocates for workers, Patrick gave his approval to Senate Bill 2195, which provides for a 38 percent increase. This minimum wage will become the highest for a state in the country.
The law covers tipped workers, who will see a pay increase to $3.75 per hour by 2017, according to the governor’s office. The law will benefit a total of 800,000 wage earners and tipped workers in Massachusetts, supporters added.
PICO National Network, a network of faith-based groups, hailed the pay increase, noting that members of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN) and Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition, worked hard on the campaign.
“This victory only happened because MCAN and the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition ran the most successful grassroots signature gathering effort in state history, pushing the Legislature to move forward on this historic bill,” PICO National Network said in a statement.
“Our message was heard not with million-dollar TV ads, but with hundreds of thousands of one-on-one conversations.”
The group estimates that 7,000 volunteers worked to collect 360,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot in the Bay State. That momentum, PICO National Network added, helped prompt legislative action.
“Giving Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the country will put more money in the hands of working families and strengthen our economy,” Deb Fastino, co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts, said in a statement.
Patrick, who praised the role of grassroots organizing in the wage increase campaign, explained that the state law will help residents who do important work that often goes overlooked.
“Raising the minimum wage brings a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who recycle money right back into the economy,” he said.
The Massachusetts state law also makes a special “underground economy” task force permanent. The task force helps protect workers and employers by investigating companies that “misclassify” workers and “abuse wage and hour laws,” the governor’s office said.
In 1912, Massachusetts became the first state to implement a minimum wage, according to PICO National Network, which added that the law and campaign for it have “changed the conversation about the dignity of work.”
In early June, the Seattle City Council approved a $15 per hour minimum wage for workers in the Emerald City. When it goes into effect in April 2015, it will be the highest hourly wage in the country.
Brad Wong is assistant news editor for Equal Voice News.
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