By Lewis Finfer
This summer, 800 residents, including delegations from EPOCA and SEIU members in Worcester, packed a State House hearing room to ask for a hike in the state’s minimum wage which was last raised January 1, 2008. The proposed legislation (H. 1701, sponsored by Rep. Antonio Cabral; S. 878, sponsored by Sen. Marc Pacheco and 58 other legislators) would raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 per hour within three years.
Estimates suggest this increase would impact 580,000 low wage earners, a disproportionate of whom live in the state’s Gateway Cities like Worcester. Higher wages would provide an injection of $720 million in to the local economies of our cities if the minimum wage were raised to $10 an hour.
According to a 2011 study by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, every dollar added to the hourly minimum wage resulted in $2,800 in yearly additional consumer spending by that worker’s household. Gateway Cities would see great benefits without much risk to their economies.
While opponents argue minimum wage increases lead to layoffs, economic research suggests communities that have raised their minimum wages have not experienced greater employment loss than comparable areas.
Contact your state legislators and ask them to work actively for passage of this bill.
While we need a comprehensive strategy to support the growth and renewal of our Gateway Cities like Worcester, a long overdue minimum wage increase is one effective response we should put in place without delay.
Lewis Finfer is the director of Massachusetts Communities Action Network
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