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Raise Up Massachusetts says it has enough signatures to move forward ballot questions raising minimum wage, ensuring paid sick time

November 18, 2013  |  Mass Live  |  Link to article

By: Robert Rizzuto

BOSTON — The activist coalition Raise Up Massachusetts announced Monday that it had surpassed the number of signatures required to place on the 2014 ballot questions giving the voters the chance to decide whether to increase the state's minimum wage standards and to ensure workers get paid sick time.

According to a press release from the coalition, which represents community, labor and faith organizations across the state, approximately 269,059 signatures were collected over the course of 10 weeks for each ballot question, trumping the state requirement of obtaining 68,911 verified signatures.

“When I explained that the minimum wage is only $8 an hour and almost one million workers in Massachusetts can’t earn a single day of paid sick time, people were eager to sign,” said Kim Rivera, an activist from Springfield who the coalition says has collected 853 signatures. “I am proud to have volunteered on behalf of this campaign, and proud of the quarter of a million Massachusetts voters who will cast their ballot for these questions in November 2014.”

In addition to the thousands of signatures collected to push forward both ballot questions, the measures have support from the state's two Democratic U.S. senators.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the lead petitioner of the ballot proposal to give voters the choice about whether to raise the minimum wagefrom $8 an hour to $10.50 per hour over the course of two years while attaching future increases beyond that to the inflation rate.

The minimum wage in Massachusetts has not seen an increase since 2008, when it was placed at $8 an hour - one of the highest rates in the nation.

Sen. Ed Markey is the lead petitioner for the ballot proposal giving voters the option of mandating that workers in the commonwealth be given the chance to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. The mandatory time earnings would cap at 40 hours of sick time, according to the proposal.

The group said the fact that no paid signature-collecting efforts were administered in their efforts outline the overwhelming public support for the ballot proposals.

“We have gone far above and beyond what is needed because there is a lot to be said for strength in numbers,” said Susan Tousignant, president of SEIU Local 509 in a statement. "These numbers show just how many Massachusetts voters stand with families who need a higher minimum wage and earned sick time."

Signatures must be turned in to city and town clerks across the commonwealth by this coming Wednesday before they can be certified by Secretary of State William Galvin’s office in early December.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana and a question to give independent automotive mechanics access to the same diagnostic equipment as the official dealerships. Voters rejected a proposal which would have allowed patient-assisted suicide.