A Step Toward A Living Wage
Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law an increase in the state’s mandatory minimum wage, which will be implemented over three years. Starting on January 1, 2015, the Massachusetts minimum wage will rise from $8.00 to $9.00/ hour for non-agricultural, non-service, employees. On January 1, 2016, the minimum will increase again to $10.00/ hour and then to $11.00/ hour on January 1, 2017. In conjunction with these increases, cash minimum wages for service (tipped) workers will see a bump from $2.63/ hour to $3.00/ hour on the first day of 2015, followed by another hike to $3.75/ hour starting in 2017. But even with this progress, many Massachusetts residents will still find themselves below the poverty line.
Although these increases are certainly welcome, and are the highest in the nation, they are only a first step in providing low-wage workers with a true “living wage.” An MIT professor has developed a tool to calculate the living wage in various locations across the country: http://livingwage.mit.edu/states/25/locations. By analyzing expenses associated with typical cost of living, the real impact of a minimum wage increase can be determined. In Boston and the surrounding towns, a living wage is now about $12.50/hour, well above the new minimum. Economists can debate the impact of a minimum wage increase on small businesses and corporations (and how that affects the job market), but the raw numbers for individuals and families attempting to get by are a hard reality. While we celebrate this victory for employees, we should recall that also it is only one step in the long journey toward fairness for workers and a living wage for all.