Next week, Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign a law giving low-income workers an overdue increase in the minimum wage, an increase that will be gradually implemented to accommodate employers. Businesses should find that the wage hike, by acting as an economic stimulus, will benefit them as well.
The House and Senate this week signed off on a bill boosting the state’s $8 per hour minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017, with the wage going to $9 an hour next year and $10 an hour in 2016. Senate President Therese Murray observed that the minimum wage in 1968, if adjusted for inflation, would be $10.72 today, so the wage is simply catching up to where it should have been all along.
With costs rising and the minimum wage stagnant, low-income workers must often work two jobs to stay above the poverty line. That is unfair to them and to their families. With more money in their pockets, they will no longer be dependent upon government benefits programs, which will reduce that burden on taxpayers, and they will be better able to contribute to the economy, giving a boost to businesses.
While opponents of the hike raised the same objections they have to decades worth of wage hike proposals, the increase is reasonable and will be responsibly implemented. President Obama, who praised Massachusetts lawmakers Friday, is pushing for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10. That will never get past House Republicans, but struggling workers in Massachusetts can be grateful that they live in a state that looks after their interests, not just those of the wealthy.