Amherst officials dismiss minimum wage hike

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Amherst Town Meeting members voted to dismiss the proposal that would have almost doubled the town minimum wage.

A UMass student had collected enough signatures to propose an increase in the town minimum wage, from $8 an hour to $15 an hour.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, the lead petitioner, told 22News, “There’s a very high cost of living here, so that’s one reason. The other reason is it’s about beginning a conversation to raise the minimum wage nationwide. I don’t think this is an isolated event.”

The Amherst Select Board made it clear, they support increasing the minimum wage, just not at the town level. They want state and federal lawmakers to make the change, a change that would apply to everyone in the region.

Barbara Levine of Amherst said, “They have the figures of who works in these lower jobs and where they work and what would be the proper way to do it. We don’t want to put any of these mom-and-pops out of business.”

“Whether they couldn’t remain open, they need to reduce staffing, whether they need to move to a different town entirely, it’s just not something Amherst could or should practically do on its own,” said Stephanie O’Keeffe, a Select Board Chair.

Supporters said the more people earn, the more they’ll spend locally, but the Amherst Finance Committee said it would cost the town $220,000 if the minimum wage went up to $15.

With the dismissal vote, no one can call for a referendum vote on this proposal.