BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announces that the Massachusetts Senate has passed legislation to restore the value of the minimum wage in Massachusetts. The Senate’s bill increases the state minimum wage, which is currently $8 an hour, to $11 an hour by 2016. It links future minimum wage increases to the Consumer Price Index for the Northeast region. The bill also increases wages for tipped workers to 50 percent of the minimum wage.
"Raising the minimum wage is a common sense step to making work pay and reducing poverty,” said Downing. “This legislation restores value the minimum wage has lost since 1968 and ensures it won't lose value going forward.”
Adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage in 1968 would be worth $10.72 today. A full-time minimum wage worker in 1968 earned $21,400 in today’s dollars, about $5,400 dollars more than a full-time minimum wage worker today.
The poverty rate in Massachusetts has increased by 20 percent since 2006 and the child poverty rate has increased by 25 percent. Poverty is linked with negative health outcomes and lower academic achievement. In addition, the school dropout rate for low-income families is 4.5 times higher than for others.
“This bill offers a much-needed helping hand to many of our residents and takes us one step closer to providing a living wage in the Commonwealth,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “We are facing a huge income gap that only continues to widen, where the workers at the top see large wage increases and the workers at the bottom are at a standstill. That needs to change. Increasing the minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2016 will directly affect nearly half a million minimum wage and low-wage workers in Massachusetts.”
“Today's vote is a victory for working people across this Commonwealth,” said Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich). "As a matter of fundamental fairness and economic policy, helping hardworking people and stimulating economic growth, restoring the minimum wage is the right thing to do. The great benefits that we reap in restoring the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation are not simply economic. Our neighborhoods will be stronger, our middle class will be stronger, our state will be stronger, our moral foundation will be stronger--all of us will be stronger.” Wolf serves as the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development.
Nationally, the legislatures of four other states -- California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island – have enacted bills to increase the minimum wage starting in 2014. In addition, New Jersey voters approved a Constitutional amendment this month to raise the minimum wage in 2014 and tie increases to cost of living.
Under this bill, Massachusetts will join ten other states that currently index the minimum wage to inflation.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for review and consideration.