Minimum Wage Bill Passes; Governor Expected to Sign

The two legislative branches in the Commonwealth recently reached accord on a proposal to hike the minimum wage here in Massachusetts. Given the prior statements of Governor Deval Patrick, it appears the legislation will become law within a matter of days.

The bill will increase the minimum wage by one dollar in each of the next three years, from its current $8/hour to $9/hour in 2015, $10/hour in 2016 and $11/hour in 2017. It will also gradually increase the amounts employers must pay to tipped employees from the current $2.63/hour to $3.75/hour. This class of worker — generally wait staff in restaurants, bartenders, and others who typically receive tips from customers — must receive the minimum wage through a combination of hourly pay and tips. Under current law, a waiter, e.g., must receive $2.63/hour from his employer and an additional $5.67/hour in tips, at a minimum. Any shortfall must be paid by the employer.

If the new bill becomes law as expected, Massachusetts will join a growing list of states to increase the minimum wage this year. The movement in this area has plainly gained a strong foothold at the state level, though the federal government, not surprisingly, remains unable to move in the face of patent Republican obstructionism. Minimum wages have been generally unchanged for many years. The debate over how increasing them may affect employers notwithstanding, there exists no serious dispute that, at current levels, few if any full-time minimum wage workers can afford to support themselves and/or their families.