Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Back in 2002, when the minimum wage was $6.75 in Massachusetts, Boloco founder John Pepper raised his lowest-paid workers’ pay to $8 an hour.
The decision to compensate employees more than the state minimum to wrap burritos and sweep floors was unheard of at the time — and is still rare in an industry notorious for low pay. Today, many fast-food restaurants pay the bare minimum of $8 an hour in Massachusetts, or just $16,640 a year.
“We couldn’t figure out any other way to expect people to care about their job if we weren’t allowing them to pay their basic bills,” said Pepper. “How could we command any share of their attention when all they were thinking about was getting a second job?”
Most restaurants worry that raising wages will threaten already small margins, but Pepper thinks the opposite. His philosophy? Workers who are paid more will be happier with their lives and jobs, provide better service, and stick around.
The results have been mixed.
“It’s been anything but a straight upward line,” he admits. “But a lot of our best years coincide with our most risky moves to take care of people.”
Fast-food workers have been leading the charge in the growing movement to raise wages in low-paying industries. And their efforts have started to get results in several major cities, at airports, and among private businesses that have increased wages above state minimums.
Pepper stepped down last year as head of the company he cofounded in 1997 but remains a co-owner. Still, his people-first approach continues.
Entry-level workers earn at least $9 an hour; the average is about $12. The company pays 60 percent of medical and 50 percent of dental coverage for anyone who works more than 30 hours a week. It also sponsors English-language classes and offers holiday and sick pay.
And although Pepper is out of the daily restaurant business, he hasn’t given up his fight for fair compensation. He’s an outspoken advocate for higher pay and is among a small contingent of business owners who applauded the state’s decision to raise minimum wage to $11 by 2017.
Still, Pepper argues that his efforts aren’t enough. “We’re still part of the problem,” he said. “We’re better than most, but the industry is terrible on this.”
The wide-ranging “grand bargain’’ bill would also impose a small payroll tax on workers and employers to pay for the leaves.Continue reading »
Formed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the company will be led by Brigham and Women’s surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande.Continue reading »
Plans for a Kendall Square restaurant eventually became the amazingly popular Venture Café.Continue reading »
The ruling, which opened the door for states to collect sales taxes on products their residents buy from online retailers in other states, is a loss for Mass.-based online retailer Wayfair.Continue reading »
The Supreme Court has opened the door for states to collect sales taxes on products their residents buy from Internet retailers in other states.Continue reading »
The high cost of housing in the region is forcing some recent college graduates to move back in with mom and dad to save money.Continue reading »
The Conservation Law Foundation says it plans to sue to overturn zoning that will allow too many high-rises on the edge of Boston Harbor.Continue reading »
Check out the 25 organizations with 1,000 or more employees that made the Globe’s list of top workplaces.Continue reading »
General Electric, an original member of the stock index, will be removed and replaced by Walgreens.Continue reading »