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Governor Baker signs ‘grand bargain’ bill

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.(Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

Governor Charlie Baker signed a sweeping bill into law Thursday morning that will incrementally reshape the workplace for millions of Massachusetts residents by raising the hourly minimum wage to $15, mandating paid medical and family leave, eliminating premium pay for Sunday workers, and instituting a yearly sales tax holiday.

Baker was joined by top Democratic lawmakers who shepherded the bill to his desk as a way to avoid a divisive battle over three November ballot questions: slicing the sales tax to 5 percent, raising the minimum wage, and creating a paid leave program.

With his signature, a coalition of labor, faith, and community groups won't move forward with its minimum wage and paid leave questions, and a top business group won't press its sales tax question.

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The law will, step-by-step, raise the minimum wage to from $11 to $15 per hour by 2023, as it eliminates time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays.

It will ensure almost all employees in the state can take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave starting in 2021 — with a guarantee that they can return to their same or equivalent positions, with the same status, pay, and employment benefits. That will be funded by imposing a new $800-million-per-year payroll tax on workers and employers in Massachusetts.

And, starting in 2019, it will create a yearly sales tax holiday weekend every August, letting people buy most items without paying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax.

Baker, a Republican, is running for reelection this fall.


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.