Retail, fast food workers demand $15 minimum wage

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and it hasn't budged since 2009

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Last year, the state increased the minimum wage from $8 dollars an hour to $11 dollars by year 2017. Hourly employees were back at the State House Tuesday demanding even higher wages.

Hundreds of people rallied at the State House Tuesday in hopes of raising the state minimum wage from $9 dollars an hour now to $15 dollars over three years. One state senator believes even $15 dollars an hour isn’t enough to get by.

“Obviously it is not enough when you start taking a look at the cost of housing, the cost of education,” said Taunton Democrat Marc Pacheco.

The minimum wage hike would only apply to big box retail, fast food and home care workers. There’s another bill that would allow tipped workers to earn the full minimum wage instead of the $3 dollars an hour they’re making now. A Northampton waitress told 22News many more people are relying on these jobs as long-term employment.

Hotel Northampton waitress Gretchen Ravenhurst said, “That is something that we’re battling against as servers, is this mentality that serving is not a career and serving is a temporary job.”

It’s unlikely this bill will see any movement this session. State lawmakers agreed to gradually raise the minimum wage just last year from $8 dollars an hour to $11 dollars – and even that was a battle.

Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Chairman John Scibak (D-South Hadley) believes “going to $15 is a radical move.” He added that “one of the issues we need to look at is hearing what is a livable, meaningful wage is and does it make a difference if you’re in Boston or the Pioneer Valley?”

Small businesses are hit the hardest from raising the minimum wage. Higher pay could lead to fewer jobs in Massachusetts, especially for young people.

An employee making $15 dollars an hour makes more than $31,000 each year.

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