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THE ARGUMENT

Should Massachusetts restore the requirement of time-and-a-half pay for retail workers on Sundays and holidays?

YES

Celine Blaisdell

Bellingham resident, employee at the Temple Street Stop & Shop in Framingham

I have worked for Stop & Shop for 29 years. My co-workers and I were shocked last summer when the state legislature actually voted to reduce the pay of 350,000 grocery and other retail workers in Massachusetts when, as part of the so-called “grand bargain,” they voted to phase out Sunday and holiday time-and-a-half pay for retail workers.

I was fortunate enough to sit on the negotiating committee when my union was bargaining our contract with Stop & Shop early this year. The company almost immediately made it a priority to remove its requirement to pay Sunday time and one half from the contract and just follow the new state law. This was such an incredibly important issue to everyone who works at Stop & Shop and other retail businesses. The possibility of losing this vital pay united us, and was one of the major issues that forced us to go on strike for 11 days.

In my store, whether it is a young 17-year old-saving for the rising costs of a college education or a single mother, keeping time and one half pay was the one issue that each of my co-workers found vital in our negotiations. Thankfully, through our short term sacrifice we were able to keep Sunday and holiday time-and-a-half pay for Stop & Shop workers in the new contract. I worry about the hundreds of thousands of my fellow retail workers who will be losing this pay over the next few years.

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This change will mean a significant loss of income for these employees. Working on Sundays and holidays, retail workers provide a valuable service that consumers are increasingly taking advantage of in their shopping. We should be compensated for this. How legislators in one of the most progressive states in the country could have ever voted to decrease the pay of 350,000 of their constituents is unbelievable.

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I hope they fix the mistake they made and pass legislation currently in committee that would reinstate Sunday and holiday time and a half pay for all retail workers. No one in such an expensive state can afford a pay cut!

NO

Christopher Carlozzi

Massachusetts State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business; Malden resident

The “grand bargain” signed into law last summer wasn’t a great deal for small businesses.

It drove up the cost of doing business in Massachusetts, but at least it included one provision that was long overdue: repealing the requirement that brick-and-mortar retailers pay workers time-and-a-half for working Sundays and holidays; online stores are exempt. The only other state that still has a premium pay rule on the books is Rhode Island.

Massachusetts’ premium pay rule is scheduled to be phased out over five years. By the time the state minimum wage reaches $15 an hour in 2023, it will be gone completely.

However, some legislators and labor leaders want to renegotiate. They say we should keep premium pay, despite agreeing to the phase-out as part of the bargain that included removal of the ballot question reducing the state sales tax.

Besides being patently unfair, reneging on the grand bargain would have a devastating effect on small business retailers.

Once the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour, employers would have to pay workers at least $22.50 an hour to work Sundays and holidays. Some employers could afford that, but many could not. These shopkeepers would have to answer a difficult question: Should they reduce their workforce or not open at all Sundays and holidays?

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Either way, it would mean fewer shifts for young and inexperienced workers — the very people the wage law is supposed to help. And if shoppers stop at a small business on a Sunday or holiday and find it closed, they’ll probably drive down the street to a chain store, and might not be back.

Under the grand bargain, Massachusetts businesses are already experiencing one of the nation’s highest minimum wages and most generous paid family and medical leave laws. The elimination of premium pay was one small concession the Legislature granted to small businesses.

On behalf of Massachusetts’ small businesses, I’m asking the Legislature to honor the deal it made under the grand bargain and eliminate the premium pay law by 2023. If this oppressive law remains, it’s going to have a devastating effect not only on mom-and-pop retailers, but on their employees as well.

This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.