Massachusetts is finding out the hard way that merely raising the state’s minimum wage does not automatically make life better for minimum wage workers — in fact, it could have the opposite impact.
On Jan. 1, Massachusetts’ minimum wage rose from $10 per hour to $11 per hour — that’s up $3 per hour from as recently as January 2014, the Boston Globe reported.
The Bay State was among 19 states that voted in November to give minimum wage workers a raise, as ABC News noted. Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Maryland are all expected to raise the minimum wage later this year.
“Living wage” advocates aren’t stopping there. Raise Up Massachusetts is a nonprofit organization that helped catapult Massachusetts’ minimum wage to the highest in the country, along with Washington state, which also raised its minimum wage to $11 per hour. In a Facebook post on Sunday, the group vowed to “keep fighting for $15.”
But the “Fight for 15” movement is not without consequence for the very workers it was designed to help.
The Globe spoke with one Massachusetts business owner who has cut her staff from 50 to 20 in the past two years alone, telling the newspaper she just couldn’t afford to pay all those workers the ever-rising, state-mandated amount.
Marc Wallerce, another Massachusetts business owner, said his payroll has gone up nearly $100,000 in the past three years, with most of the extra money going to teenagers he employs, since most of his older workers already earn above minimum wage. Unlike the first business owner the Globe spoke to, Wallerce hasn’t cut any jobs, but his own take-home pay is less than it used to be.
“Are we feeling the pinch? Absolutely. Every day,” Wallerce said.
To add insult to injury, Wallerce is mandated by Massachusetts to pay his employees time and a half on holidays and Sundays. To date, only Massachusetts and Rhode Island force businesses to pay workers extra on those days.
Liberal firebrands like Massachusetts’ own Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren as well as one-time Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, have been strong supporters of the “Fight for 15” movement. Sanders took to Twitter on Saturday to praise the “huge progress” made by “living wage” advocates in just three years.
The #Fightfor15 started only 4 years ago. But huge progress has already been made because people everywhere see the justice of that idea.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 31, 2016
It remains to be seen whether President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for labor secretary, restaurant executive Andrew Puzder, will push back against the move for a higher federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. Puzder has been an outspoken critic of raising the federal minimum wage to $15, which is the ultimate goal of the “Fight for 15” movement.