Updates, 3/27/2014: To no one’s surprise, the House legislation is missing key provisions — no indexing and too low of an increase for tipped workers.
Now the push comes to the Amendments, and the hardball is, apparently, around the INDEXING amendment. We may already know that the Speaker is going to strong arm his delegation to kill it. But who will make a stand and be on record as SUPPORTING this eminently MODERATE policy?
So, we’re up against a deadline. Legislators have until tomorrow, 3/28, 5pm, to add their names as sponsors to Amendments.
*We* each need to be on record with our State Reps (and, any other Reps with whom we have relationships… perhaps you took a day off to GOTV?) asking them to sponsor an Amendment to INDEX the minimum wage to inflation.
And ask Bill T said on twitter, let’s hear it from the Reps themselves: what possible reason does the Legislature have for NOT supporting indexing?
Progressive Mass has more information and a call reporting tool: progressivemass.com/raiseupcall
ORIGINAL POST BELOW
Nobody who works full time should live in poverty!
— Senator Elizabeth Warren, Feb. 2
Nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
–Pres. Obama in Connecticut, with Governor Patrick, Mar. 2014
A bill to increase the minimum wage should also include UI reforms.
–Jim Klocke, Exec VP, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 2013
Any increase in the minimum wage must be paired with meaningful improvement to our UI system.
— Speaker DeLeo, Jan. 2014
Given the importance of UI reform and a minimum wage increase, we will update both at the same time.
— Speaker DeLeo, Speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Mar. 13, 2014
What’s the matter with Massachusetts? We have such committed, strong and passionate advocates for a just economy — including a strong minimum wage — in our U.S. Senate and Congressional delegation. Meanwhile, on Beacon Hill, Massachusetts legislative leadership features triangulators whose primary aim seems to be “Don’t piss off the business lobby” — not, “what is the best economic policy?” or “how can we help the working poor?”
Like thousands of other progressive activists, I volunteered and worked hard over the fall to collect signatures to put a strong minimum wage referendum on the ballot. Since hearing of Speaker DeLeo’s deference toward doing the business lobby’s bidding to undermine unemployment insurance, I have organized my community to get phone calls and meet with their state legislators at the State House to push back. Like so many others, I have put in the time, the effort, the heart and the commitment. And because of all of our combined efforts, we have a really strong ballot question for the fall, a solid Senate bill, and an underwhelming proposal from the House leadership.
|Increase wage to||$10.50/hour||$11/hour||$10.50/hour||$8/hour|
|Indexed to inflation||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Tipped wage||60% of min||50% of min||$3.75, unlinked to min||$2.63, unlinked to min|
|Combined with “reforms”
The Speaker’s proposal, as described at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast yesterday, appears to be decidedly improved from what it COULD have been. The most draconian changes to unemployment insurance don’t seem to be part of the proposal (but there’s no actual bill yet); the $10.50 proposal is higher than what the business lobby probably wants (see Hester Prynne for more commentary). This shows that our organized grassroots pressure HAS HAD AN EFFECT, and we need to KEEP IT UP.
But yet…this is Massachusetts! Look at the Speaker’s outline, compared to the ballot question or the Senate’s version. Why should we be grateful just because a bill, proposed by one branch of our representatives, is better than what we feared it would be? Raising the minimum wage is just one, fairly modest step toward ensuring that no one who works lives in poverty. Why is our overwhelmingly Democratic legislature so hung up on one single social justice measure, when so much more needs to be done in Massachusetts?
(for one thing, we OUGHT be talking about how the Massachusetts Legislature is actually a step toward a LIVING WAGE, so that the “Working Poor” isn’t actually a thing any more! For more of what the Legislature could be working on, try here and here)
With the prospect of a significant minimum wage increase becoming law in Massachusetts, our focus now should be holding our State Senators and Representatives accountable to what is best for the state as a whole, and for the principles around which we’ve worked so hard to organize. It’s deeply troubling that just one person can dictate — or seriously weaken — a policy that will have an impact of the lives of over half a million Massachusetts workers.
I urge the Strategerians to step outside of Beacon-Hill-think and remember that literally hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts citizens signed on to an indexed $10.50 minimum wage and a tipped wage at 60%.
For on-the-ground activists and volunteers, inside-the-building compromises, which both sacrifice indexing AND throw tipped workers under the bus, don’t really translate as a “Win”.
There may be some good reasons not to go to the ballot. It will take more time, effort, money and organizing. We — the grassroots progressives — don’t have the same resources or power as the business lobby. It’s tiring. More time on ballot campaigns means less time for electoral races.
But legislation without indexing and with a raw deal for tipped workers risks squandering the good faith and hard work of the grassroots. Without indexing, we’ll just repeat the same old pattern: increase the minimum, watch it lose value, fight for an increase in 6-7 years, and on and on. I don’t want to do this again in 7 years. I want to fix it once and for all.
If the assessment turns out to be ‘we can’t get an indexed $10.50 minimum and 60% tipped wage done this year because the progressive grassroots aren’t powerful enough yet,’ then let’s discuss:
What are we doing to make the grassroots stronger, to build power for the next round?
Are we investing in grassroots organizing for the LONG term wins?
Let’s get this done — but let’s get it done right.