Together with our partners in the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign, we will be working on two ballot initiatives throughout 2013 and 2014. In the first stage of the campaign during Fall 2013, the Raise Up collected over 285,000 signatures, blowing past the 200,000 it needed to put both questions on the ballot. MCAN gathered 70,000 of those signatures.
Our work moved House Speaker DeLeo to introduce a bill raising the minimum wage to $10.50/hr. But his bill does not index the minimum wage to the cost of living, and it barely raises wages for tipped workers. You can find out more about DeLeo's bill here. We are currently continuing to work with our legislators and with the Speaker to ensure a minimum wage bill that is fair to all workers.
Our first ballot question would raise the minimum wage significantly from $8 an hour up to $10.50 an hour and index it to the cost of living. This would benefit 600,000 low-wage earners. The minimum wage was last raised on January 1, 2008 and the cost of living has continued to rise since then. As a result, the real value of the minimum wage—that is, the amount you can actually buy with the minimum wage—is in danger of sinking to its lowest levels in thirty years.
Raising a family on the minimum wage is nearly impossible, but nearly 180,000 children in Massachusetts have at least one working parent who earns less than $11/hour. Workers who earn higher wages have more money to spend: the Economic Policy Institute projects that an increase to the minimum wage could create 4500 new jobs in the first year, as people with more money in their pockets support local businesses.
Earned Sick Time
Nearly one million workers across Massachusetts—one-third of the total workforce—have no sick leave. Our proposal would give everyone who works for an employer with 11 or more employees the opportunity to earn paid sick leave, and everyone who works for an employer with 10 or fewer employees the opportunity to earn job-protected sick leave, earning up to five sick days per year.
That means that if you, your child, or an aging family member are sick and you miss work, you can't lose your job. Sick time is a basic human right, not a privilege, and this is our opportunity to protect it in the law. Earned sick time is also good for businesses—keeping sick workers out of the workplace reduces the spread of illness and increases productivity.
While we blew past our signature goals for the fall, the process is not over yet. Massachusetts law requires that we gather another 11,000 certified signatures during the spring, by voters who did not already sign in the fall. As a result, we're working over the course of the winter and spring to build strong congregational teams that will help us gather the second round of signatures.
For more in-depth information, see our presentation.