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Brockton Faith Group to Gather Signatures for Minimum Wage, Earned Sick Time Ballot Questions

August 20, 2013  |  The Brockton Enterprise  |  Link to article

By Morgan True
Posted Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:58 PM
Last update Aug 20, 2013 @ 10:02 PM
 
Kathy Byner says her daughter, a single mother, has struggled to make ends meet while working for minimum wage.

“It’s very painful to watch,” Byner said. “When she was working two jobs, I don’t think she had a single good day.”

Her daughter, Shanquita Brian, 25, was working more than 50 hours each week at two jobs, which both paid minimum wage, while raising her 1-year-old son on her own. Byner said the stress gave way to depression and her daughter eventually cut back to one job, forcing her to rely on state assistance and Byner.

“She was consumed with working, and it wasn’t paying off,” Byner said. “Her desire is to be totally self-sufficient and independent. That’s just not possible on minimum wage.”

At a recent meeting of the Brockton Interfaith Community, Byner was one of nearly 30 representatives from local churches who will participate in a statewide effort to collect signatures for two ballot initiatives relating to low-wage work.

The two initiatives have drawn headlines recently when U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey each signed one.

One of the initiatives would raise the minimum wage from $8 to $9.25 next year and $10.50 the following year. After that an annual increase would be pegged to inflation.

Locally, BIC estimates that 25 percent of workers in the Brockton-area earn $11 or less an hour and the change would bring in $13 million in wage increases, according to the group’s Executive Director Janine Carreiro.

The other initiative would allow all employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick time per year, at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Its purpose is to protect employees from being fired for taking care of their own health or that of a family member.

Carreiro said single heads of households are increasingly working low-wage jobs.

“Part of the obstacle for these individuals is that low-wage employers won’t give full-time hours or set schedules,” Carreiro said. “That forces many low-wage workers into a second or third job just to survive.”

She points to a budget released by McDonald’s restaurants for their employees that has a total of $2,060 in monthly income, with nearly half of that income coming from an unspecified second job. Carreiro said that’s an implicit acknowledgement that one can’t live on minimum wage.

But without a set schedule, planning child care or having a fulfilling life outside work becomes next to impossible, Carreiro added.

BIC has committed to gathering 8,000 signatures for the two initiatives as part of a statewide coalition hoping to gather a total of 200,000 for both measures. That’s how many signatures the Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition believes it will need to ensure it has 68,911 signatures from certified voters – the threshold to get on the ballot.

The coalition has from Sept. 18 to Nov. 20 to gather the signatures.

At the recent BIC meeting, various church groups in Brockton said they are working to gather signatures.

Byner said getting involved with the statewide signature drive is empowering.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing my part to be supportive of people in the community struggling on minimum wage,” she said. “If parents aren’t home because they’re working two or three jobs then the children are going to become a statistic, they’re going to get lost in these streets.”