As workers rally, Labor panel passes $15 wage minimum

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STATE HOUSE — A legislative committee on Tuesday afternoon endorsed a bill establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food and so-called big box store workers.

The 4-2 vote of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee came as fast food workers rallied in favor of higher wages, planning to march from Faneuil Hall to the State House.

A committee aide said it was the committee’s policy to release the committee vote, without identifying how individual committee members voted.

The legislation (S 1024) was reported to the Senate where it is sponsored by committee co-chair Sen. Dan Wolf of Harwich. An aide said Wolf planned to address ralliers at the State House.

The bill calls for a $13.50-per-hour wage for fast food workers starting on Jan. 1, 2017, with that wage rising to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018.

A delegation of low-wage workers plans to visit Gov. Charlie Baker’s office Tuesday afternoon to deliver a letter to the governor calling on him to rebuke statements made by Republican Party members about the minimum wage, immigration matters and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It may take more than one two-year session” to advance the bill through the Legislature, said Lew Finfer, co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts, who said the bill was first filed this session.

About 205,000 workers are employed at the large retail and fast food chains that would be subject to the $15-per-hour-minimum wage and “almost all of them make less than $15,” said Finfer, who said managers at McDonald’s can make as little as $10 per hour.

In a statement, Raise Up Massachusetts said, “On a day when hundreds of low-wage workers are marching to the State House to demand a $15 minimum wage, we are very pleased to see this bill, which would provide stability to low-wage employees at large companies, move to the Senate. We look forward to working with the entire Legislature to move the bill forward and allow these employees, many of whom are parents, to support their families.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a day after the Labor and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on wage bills in October, expressed doubt about the House revisiting the topic after last year passing a bill to phase in an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour by 2017.

“We had addressed this issue last year, so we addressed that and we addressed the area of unemployment insurance and a whole host of other things so I don’t see us taking it up this year,” DeLeo told reporters.

— Written byy Michael Norton

[Andy Metzger and Matt Murphy contributed reporting]

Copyright State House News Service