News & Media Coverage

Religious Leaders Help Collect Signatures for Initiatives

November 10, 2013  |  The Boston Globe  |  Link to article

By Peter Schworm and Katy Rushlau

 |  GLOBE STAFF | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

Supporters of ballot initiatives to raise the state’s minimum wage by $2.50 an hour and require that all businesses provide workers with sick time have collected more than 200,000 signatures in a broad outreach effort supported by dozens of religious institutions.

“It’s an enormous task, and the religious congregations have been a big part of it,” said Lewis Finfer, director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network in Boston, a faith-based group that is working to put the issues on next year’s ballot. “It’s happening all over the state.”

In all, 100 congregations are taking part, many of them in cities where low wages are common, the group said. About 30 percent of jobs do not provide sick time, it estimated.

“Our faith moves us not just to compassion and charity, but to action,” said the Rev. Jane Gould of St. Stephen’s Memorial Episcopal Church in Lynn.

The first question would raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10.50 per hour by 2016 and have it indexed to cost-of-living increases. The second would require that all workers be eligible to earn up to 40 hours of sick time per year.

The proposed law would protect workers from losing their jobs if they are sick or need to care for sick child, the group said. “Thirty percent of jobs don’t have sick days at all,” Finfer said. “It’s a terrible bind people are in.”

The group needs about 69,000 signatures of registered voters to put each question on the ballot, and has gone well beyond that to ensure enough signatures are valid. Organizers hope to collect aggressively until the Nov. 20 deadline.

“We’re very encouraged,” said Angela Pape, the group’s deputy director. “People are struggling and its in our faith tradition to help our brothers and sisters.”

About 50,000 signatures have been collected by clergy and lay leaders, including Pastor John MacInnis of St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas the Apostole, both in Peabody, who has collected more than 700.

“We have to do something and we’ll take as long as it needs,” he said.

Under the proposed law, employers with 10 or fewer workers must provide unpaid sick time; larger employers must provide paid sick time.