News & Media Coverage

Raising the Minimum Wage

October 4, 2013  |  The Fact She3t  |  Link to article

Raising the Minimum Wage

By Elijah Romulus

"I used to work at McDonald's making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? It's like, 'Hey if I could pay you less I would, but it's against the law."
-Chris Rock

This year has seen a vast array of movements in America, whether they have been properly covered by news media or not is another question. In a previous post some of those movements were touched upon. A reoccurring theme that may have started in November of last year is the fight to increase the nation's minimum wage. Fast food workers across the nation have truly galvanized the movement calling it the "Fight for 15". In their demands: the right to unionize and provide a wage of $15 an hour to maintain a living wage.

In Massachusetts a similar movement has stirred the residents of the state to raise the minimum wage in a Raise Up MA initiative. Residents in different community action groups have all banned together in a petition drive to get the minimum wage increase on the ballot for the people of the state to vote on. One petition is to raise the minimum wage from $8/hr to $10.50/hr over the course of two years. The other petition is to grant employees earned sick time. The petition drive has till November to garner as many signatures as needed to get the demands on the ballot. I personally have been working with the Brockton Interfaith Community in order to get this demand met. In a blue collar city with many immigrants and low-wage workers, petitions with the demands mentioned previously is something very important to the prosperity of the city.

Working on this campaign I have had the opportunity to meet with the mayor's office and a state representative of MA. In both meetings the officials expressed support in a wage increase and earned sick time. In the case of the state rep, it was expressed that a bill to do such a thing has been stuck in the state house for some time. There is only so much the government can do without pressure from the people it represents. The American people recently voiced great concern and opposition with a war in Syria. In an unprecedented move the leaders of America, Russia, and Syria, were able to work things out diplomatically because the American people demanded it.

 “Paid sick leave will help working families in Jersey City so they won’t have to choose between missing a day of work and caring for their own health or that of a family member,” Mayor Fulop said in a statement.In the same manner, citizens need to voice there concerns and no other way is more effective than voting. In this petition drive it is not asking the support of Massachusetts residents but merely the ability to put the initiative on the ballot and let the people vote yes or no. America is supposed to be the pillar of democracy and in the state that helped birth a nation the residents are asking to practice that ideal. Going out canvassing and asking people to canvass has brought up a series of arguments opposing the increase and why or how it negativity affects people. This is meant to counter such arguments with some fact based rebuttals.

A fellow at a local supermarket replied when I asked to sign: Let the market decide the amount for the minimum wage. If the market were to decide the minimum wage then it should be much higher than it is right now. Since 1960, if wages were adjusted to reflect inflation and worker productivity, then the minimum wage in America would be something like $22/hr. Furthermore, for the 1% of the richest people in the nation, if minimum wages were increased at the same rate as them it would be around $33/hr. Asking for $10.50 an hour is simply asking to properly adjust wages to match the inflation rate. Likewise, California has already decided to increase their minimum wage to $10 by 2016. Raising the minimum wage helps Americans climb out of poverty and close the ever increasing income inequality gap.

While there haven't been many people that I have come across that oppose earned sick time. The politicians in Jersey City, NJ decided already that is makes sense to grant workers sick time.

One of the greatest challenges while getting signatures has been how a wage increase can hurt small businesses. However the Small Business Majority released a statement showing 67% of small business owners across the nation support a raise in the minimum wage.

"Most of the businesses that participated in the survey had gross annual revenues under $500,000, and almost half had personal family incomes of under $100,000 a year. Eighty percent of the business owners were white; 60 percent were male; and 46 percent self-identified as Republican or Republican-leaning independent, while 35 percent identified as Democrat or Democrat-leaning independent." -CBS News

The minimum wage increase would help the prosperity of thousands of residents across the state of Massachusetts. And earned sick time will no longer make employees have to choose between heeding the doctor's orders or putting food on the table.