10 Thoughts on the “Grand Bargain” that just passed the MA Legislature yesterday:
(1) When we have about 80% nominal Democratic control in both houses of our Legislature, we shouldn’t have to do all of the organizing work of ballot initiatives to get the Legislature to pass things that are, well, in the Party’s own platform.
(2) The “bargain” has good parts and bad parts, but none of the good parts would have passed (See 1) without the work of the larger number of people involved with Raise Up Massachusetts — so kudos to all of the organizations and volunteers involved.
(3) Our Legislature seems to only be able to oscillate between “slow-ball legislation to death/kill it in secret” and “pass it with no debate and before activists can even fully develop a position.” We deserve better. Props to Mike Connolly and Denise Provost for acknowledging this problem.
(4) The paid family and medical leave part of the deal is more generous (in its combination of weeks and replacement pay) than what any other state has, although it is weaker than what the ballot initiative would have secured. This is more of a shot against other states than a credit to our Legislature. Paid leave bills in states have been getting more progressive because activists have been demanding more — as they should. (Maybe a requirement of paid vacation days, like other advanced industrial countries have, next?)
(5) The increase to a $15 minimum wage will benefit many workers across the state, although it’s important to remember that $15 is not a living wage in Massachusetts (especially given the costs of housing and health care — which still need to be addressed). And because they slowed the phase-in (4 years to 5 years) and dropped indexing, that $15 will be less valuable by the time it finally comes. But it is still more than $11. It’s appalling that, on the federal level, Congress hasn’t passed a minimum wage increase since 2007. (And finally eliminating the tipped wage, which is so prone to wage theft, is still an important fight to be had that, unfortunately, the ballot initiative wouldn’t have fully addressed either.)
(6) However, the loss of “time and a half” on Sundays and holidays is a major loss — and could lead to an actual reduction in take-home pay for some workers (unless businesses start raising their tiers of wages more quickly then the phase out, etc.). The $22.50 that “time and a half” would become would be much closer to an actual living wage. Since I’m salaried, the significance of “time and a half” didn’t really hit me at first, but the more I think about it, the more this is a disappointing loss. The existence of “time and a half” on Sundays is somewhat archaic in theory, but it has a major positive impact in practice.
(7) The sales tax holiday is a dumb gimmick. Props to Pat Jehlen for putting forth an amendment (that was, as she knew, DOA) to strike this part of the deal.
(8) Democrats too often treat themselves as the brokers between a business lobby that hates them and the labor and community groups that helped get them elected, rather than advocates of the latter. It’s a striking contrast to how Republicans operate.
(9) Democrats acted as though they needed to make concessions because of the threat of the retailers’ sales tax reduction ballot question. A good campaign could have probably beaten that question. But, even so, there was no legitimate reason why the Legislature could not have just passed the sales tax reduction (the sales tax is regressive anyway), and then voted to pass a revenue-equivalent corporate tax hike. It would been progressive tax reform in a state that needs it. That this wasn’t even considered is revealing. And the Legislature showed that its strategy when facing extortion is to treat it as legitimate instead.
(10) I can’t help thinking this is just the latest example of our overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature trying to give cover to our Republican governor, whom they seem to like far more than our last Democratic governor.
Loss of time and a half on Sunday is a major hit to retail workers and others and, a significant give-a-way to the business owners. The addition of Holidays makes is even more insulting to many who will now give up Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth Of July to work and enrich the business owner while spending less time with friends and family on culturally important days. Yes, it’s a bit archaic, but that is not to say that is is not significant. We used to have “The Weekend” as a working class, a time for us to plan picnics, reunions, baseball games, and so much more. Slowly but surely, the ownership class is hammering away (to quote Elizabeth Warren) on the working class. This is just one more major slamming of that hammer. .
Sure, a person working for $11 an hour and puts in 40 hours a week with 8 of those on Sunday rates will be financially ahead when they are paid $15 per hour across the week, but something tells me that in the end, the working class in total will have a net loss. In other words, as today’s $11 worker goes to $15, I have doubts that today’s $16 worker will rise to $20.
I’m 63 years old and recall a time when retail stores were closed on Sunday. I my little town in Connecticut, the three gas stations would take turns as to which one would be open on Sunday. The one drug store was open till noon, as was the bakery. That was it. Somehow we managed.
When I was in my late teens, retail operations started to push for Sunday openings and on that subject, I wrote my first letter to the editor of our local paper. It was published. I argued that we, as a community, needed and deserved one day a week where we could all come together if we wished or could all count on as a day of rest and reflection, a time to get away from the rat race, a time to just be human.
In the end, the laws changed and the Malls opened on Sunday.
Can someone clarify the (potential) effect of the Sundays and Holidays change for me? The current system has so many contradictory incentives that it’s hard for me to understand its effects one way or the other. Please excuse my ignorance as a salaried employee.
From the point of view of “time with friends and family”:
Businesses are currently incentivized to stay closed on Sundays and Holidays or have fewer workers on those days. Does that still happen? It’s a plus for family time. Does it negate the wage benefit?
Employees are currently incentivized to work on Sundays and Holidays. Big minus for family time?
Would taking away time-and-a-half induce fewer people to work on holidays? Would some businesses in turn be forced to close on those days? Big plus for family time, and a wash for wages? Or would workers not have enough power in most of these situations and have to work the holidays at the lower wage anyway?
Not as far as I can see. Businesses stay open when customers are active.
YES! A huge loss.
Most people in this situation do not have the option to work or not work on a given day, especially if they are full time.
I would be all in favor of blue laws for Sunday if everyone had the same “day of rest and reflection, a time to get away from the rat race.” That said, Sunday shopping is super-convenient for the Jews.
Would you please expand on this?
I 1000% agree with #8
Question- is the elimination of Sunday overtime being phased in like the minimum wage increase or is it happening right away?
It’s being phased in through 2023:
Now: $11 minimum wage and 1.5 Sunday/holiday premium
2019: $12 and 1.4
2020: $12.75 and 1.3
2021: $13.50 and 1.2
2022: $14.25 and 1.1
2023: $15 and 1
Thank you! Glad to learn that.
I think Pablo and other sincere leftists within the Democratic Party who insist that we can move our state party to the left by working in the system have to consider more radical alternatives if we really want to effect progressive change in the Commonwealth.
Primary challenges produce results. Mike Connolly has been a drum major on this issue while Toomey, though I love the guy personally, was a do nothing backbencher on the issues that mattered. We need more of these, not fewer, and we should not jump on everyone with the courage to challenge an incumbent.
Maura Healey is an example of an activist statewide official doing a good job. Bump, Goldberg, and especially Galvin are not. We should not be afraid to challenge them to be better.
Outside movements produce results. DSA, OR, and the folks activated by the dreaded and feared Sanders campaign are still the vanguard of a better Democratic Party. Whether you like them or not.
RCV and other electoral reforms are required to shake up this staid establishment. I think legislative term limits should also be on the table to at least scare the House into restoring speaker term limits and considering more democratic reforms.
Those who want change while fearing the methods used to enact it have to get on board.
More primary challenges are great and I like RCV, but legislative term limits are an automatic no sale for me. We should have the opportunity to re-elect people whom we like and think are doing a good job. Not quite as down on our constitutional officers as you are.
Does anyone in BMG actually know who was at the table when the “grand bargain” was negotiated? Were the decrease-the-sales-tax proponents (on the business side) and the minimum-wage-increase/PMFL proponents (on the labor/workers side) part of making this deal, or was it legislators on their own?
As to point #8: Democratic leadership in the House is loaded with DINOs who are cozy with the business lobby, which rewards them accordingly. What other explanation for the House “Health Care” bill which passed on June 19, with its pool of funds to help out community hospitals having substantially evaporated between the start of “debate” and the engrossment vote late in the night?