Berkshires-Based Raise Up Mass Backs $15 Minimum Wage, Paid Leave Ballot Effort
Sunday, September 17, 2017 7:54 pm, Berkshire Eagle
Key points, according to Raise Up Mass, to the $15/hr minimum wage and paid family leave/medical proposed referendums for the state’s November 2018 election.
• A $15/hr hike would boost the state’s minimum wage by $1 each year over four years until it is $15 an hour in 2021. The minimum wage would then be adjusted each year to rise along with increases in the cost of living.
• If approved, the measure would raise the wages of roughly 947,000 workers, or 29 percent of the state’s workforce.
– As the Massachusetts minimum wage has risen over the past three years, the state’s economy has added more than 150,000 jobs.
Paid Family/Medical Leave
• Employees taking paid leave would receive partial wage replacement equal to a percentage of their average weekly wages, with a maximum weekly benefit of either $650 or $1,000.
• Paid leave would last up to either 12 or 16 weeks to care for a seriously ill or injured family member or to bond with a new child
By Dick Lindsay, firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com)
PITTSFIELD — A small, enthusiastic group of community leaders has kicked off the Berkshires effort to get a $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts.
Local/state politicos, labor leaders and civic groups got the county’s petition drive going on the steps of City Hall, backing the coalition Raise Up Mass’s effort to get both issues on the statewide ballot for the November, 2018 election.
If approved, the current state minimum wage of $11 per hour would increase $1 a year until it reaches $15 in 2021, according to Raise Up Mass. Passage of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program would provide up to 16 weeks of employer-funded, job-protected pay to deal with a family member; 26 weeks of paid medical absence for workers recovering from their own illness or injury.
The question prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off under these conditions. Benefits would be funded through employer contributions to the new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund and employers could require employees to contribute up to 50% of the cost.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier wholeheartedly backs both proposals.
“We have a lot of people with jobs that if they don’t show up, they don’t get paid,” she said.
However, the Pittsfield Democrat wants the state Legislature to do it’s job and take the lead on these two socioeconomic issues.
“I actually don’t want them on the ballot. I want my colleagues to work together to get [the proposals] passed before they go on the ballot,” added Farley-Bouvier.
Pittsfield City Council Vice-President John Krol Jr. joined in the rousing support for both measures, urging state lawmakers to do their job with voters ready to step in if they don’t.
“While I trust the Legislature, I don’t want to rely on that and we should move forward to get these signatures,” he said.
The $15 minimum wage and paid family/medical leave are among the 21 petitions Attorney General Maura Healey has initially certified for the ballot. Supporters need at least another 64,700 registered voters to sign petitions for clear passage to the 2018 ballot.
Certification does not guarantee a slot on the ballot, nor does meeting the signature deadlines. Last year, Healey signed off on a question to end the state’s use of Common Core learning standards, but the Supreme Judicial Court later ruled it ineligible.
While Massachusetts’ $11 minimum wage far exceeds thefederal $7.25, Frank Farkas representing the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP believes Massachusetts has some catching up to Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and New York state who’ve passed or are pushing for the $15 minimum wage goal.
“As a progressive state, we should be up there,” he noted. “People who work full-time shouldn’t experience poverty.”
The Central Berkshire Labor Council agrees, saying $11 minimum wage just doesn’t cut it for families struggling to make ends meet over the course of a calendar year.
“The $22,800 gross pay for a 40-hour work week is not enough to raise a family — not enough to raise yourself,” said council member Liz Recko-Morrison. “The $15 will not create a truly living wage, but it’s a start.”
The council, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Berkshires Brigades, and local NAACP are among the organizations who will help gather the necessary signatures in the coming weeks for the pending ballot questions.
Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233