What can you buy for 75 cents – the boost in Massachusetts’ minimum hourly wage that takes effect Wednesday?
Not much — not even enough for a cup of coffee. But over a working day the difference between the 2019 minimum of $12 an hour and 2020’s $12.75 is enough to pay for a nutritious lunch.
Raising the minimum wage is a big deal.
People generally agree workers should be paid a decent wage, but what’s reasonable is subject to interpretation. A statutory minimum sets the standard, or at least the floor, and many employers support it. “Massachusetts is ringing in the New Year with a minimum wage raise, and that’s great news for business and the economy,” Holly Sklar, chief executive of the Business for a Fair Minimum Wage group advocating for more than 300 business owners across the state, said in a release.
“It’s vital to remember that workers are also customers, and minimum wage increases boost the buying power of people living paycheck to paycheck. Minimum wage raises also pay off in lower employee turnover, reduced hiring and training costs, lower error rates, better productivity and happier customers,” she said.
Others, including the National Federation of Independent Business, the small-business association with many members in the state, say businesses will feel the financial pinch.
“It isn’t just the increases in the minimum wage adding to the cost of doing business in Massachusetts -- there are higher payroll costs this year for employers as a result of the new paid leave mandate, healthcare costs are going up, and so are energy prices,” said Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the federation in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimates that the pay bump will affect 420,600 workers statewide. Its analysis also found that 60 percent of the workers affected are women and 40 percent are of color, 45 percent are in food service, 25 percent are in retail, and 89 percent are adults.
Twenty other states, including Maine, will start the new year with a minimum wage raise. The Massachusetts minimum will continue to increase by 75 cents a year to reach $15 in 2023. (The tipped minimum wage, which affects 61 percent of tipped workers, also rises on Wednesday, from $4.35 an hour to $4.95 and will increase each year to $6.75 in 2023.)
Massachusetts is one of six states (California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York are the others) with wages on track to reach $15 in coming years. Washington, D.C., will get there this year, hitting $15 on July 1, 2020; Connecticut will raise its minimum on Sept. 1, 2020, in a step toward $15 by 2023. New Hampshire’s sits at $7.25, the federal minimum, with its governor vetoing attempts by the state’s legislature to reset the minimum.
Happy birthday: The environmental nonprofit North and South Rivers Watershed Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020 with a series of nature walks starting on Wednesday in Scituate. The New Year’s Day walk starts at 1 p.m. at the Widow’s Walk Golf Course, 250 Driftway, and winds through the Driftway Conservation Park with stops at places that highlight the group’s work. Other treks have been scheduled through the summer in some of the dozen communities served by the group, as well as pontoon tours and paddles throughout the year. Visit www.nsrwa.org.
Free parking alerts: Parking at the new municipal garage in Quincy Center will be free until Jan. 6. The $46.6 million garage opened recently and after the free period will charge rates structured to discourage all-day commuter parking and encourage visitors to the downtown. The four-story facility has 712 spaces and is accessible from Hancock Street, Cottage Avenue, and Revere Road. Visit www.bldup.com/projects/quincy-center-garage.
In Foxborough from Wednesday through March 31, commuters using Foxboro Station on the MBTA’s yearlong weekday service pilot won’t have to pay for parking, thanks to the Kraft Group and Patriot Place. Some 500 parking spots are up for grabs in Lot 4C at Patriot Place. The pilot rail service offers 10 inbound and 10 outbound weekday trips on the Franklin/Fairmount lines. Visit www.mbta.com/schedules/CR-Franklin/timetable.
L. Kim Tan can be reached at email@example.com.