Amherst votes down minimum wage hike

AMHERST, Mass (WWLP)– Wednesday night Amherst town meeting members voted to dismiss a proposal that would have raised the town’s minimum wage $7 an hour higher than the state’s minimum wage.

This vote came after an UMass student had collected enough petition signatures to propose a hike in the town’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour.

The student behind this proposal told 22News the increase is needed to afford living expenses.

“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,” Matthew Cunningham-Cook said.

The Amherst select board said they do support an increase in the minimum wage, but have concerns for how it would affect local businesses.

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,” Stephanie O’Keeffe, Select Board chair, said.

The Amherst Finance Committee said they expected the increase would have cost the town more than 200,000 dollars.

There are proposals at the state level to increase the Massachusetts minimum wage from $8 to $10.50 an hour.  And nationally, President Obama has called on Congress to support an increase in the federal minimum wage up to $10.10 an hour.

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