Earlier this month, the city of Sea-Tac, Washington made national headlines when voters approved a $15 per-hour minimum wage for its airport workers. The fight for a living wage continues, this time taken up by the Massachusetts Assembly Court. On Tuesday, the great commonwealth’s Senate approved an $11 minimum wage by a vote of 32-7. It has two more hurdles to clear, the House and the Governor, before it can become law. If it does, it will become the highest state minimum wage in the nation, surpassing California’s recent hike to $10 an hour.
The wage lift proposal also comes with provisions that it stay at least 50 cents above the federal floor, with an amendment requiring that the minimum wage for tipped workers be no less than half the state minimum wage. The new pay rate would also ensure future increases are tied to inflation.
Should the House strike down the increase, citizen advocates have provided a viable back-up plan. Enough signatures have been collected to place the measure on the November 2014 ballot. This is an effective ‘Plan B’ and a model for other states proposing livable minimum wages.
On the federal front, President Obama has expressed support for a $10.10 minimum wage, roughly the amount it would be if tied to inflation since the boom years of the 1960s. Naturally, the obstructionist Republicans in Congress have quashed it. According to one poll, voters support this amount by as much as 80 percent — including an astonishing 62 percent of Republicans. Another poll cites 76 percent approving of a $9 minimum, with 58 percent of Republicans on board.
California and Massachusetts are far from alone among the states in this fight. Engaged citizens in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and South Dakota are either collecting signatures for ballot initiatives, or pressuring their state legislatures. As always, this activism starts with the workers themselves, as evidenced by workers at Walmart and other low-wage retail chains. The holiday consumption frenzy is well underway in this sector, and a show of solidarity for their labor force is urgently needed. Starting at this grassroots level, onward to the local level like Sea-Tac, and upward to the state and federal levels, the people must keep pressing for a living wage.
The Massachusetts House has an opportunity to empower the working people they serve. Job security is on the line, and not necessarily that of the Bay State’s good working people either.
h/t: Think Progress