Minimum wage ballot question to be dropped if Baker signs ‘grand bargain’

  • Gov. Baker speaking at State House, Tuesday. shns photo

State House News Service
Published: 6/26/2018 8:24:53 PM

The coalition of more than 100 labor, community and faith-based groups behind a proposed ballot question to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour has agreed to drop that question from the ballot – if Gov. Charlie Baker signs a compromise bill that would accomplish the same goal.

The Raise Up coalition announced that its grassroots committee voted Tuesday to not pursue the wage floor increase on the November ballot as long as Baker signs the “grand bargain” bill the Legislature passed last week.

The bill lawmakers hustled to the governor’s desk on Wednesday would raise the minimum wage to $15 and increase the wage for tipped workers to $6.75 over five years. The bill also phases out extra pay for workers who clock in on Sundays and holidays, develops a program for paid family and medical leave, and mandates an annual summer sales tax-free weekend.

“Because of the incredible work of dozens of grassroots organizations and thousands of volunteers who collected signatures to qualify our questions for the ballot, Massachusetts workers will have a $15 minimum wage and the strongest, most progressive paid family and medical leave program in the nation,” Raise Up said in a statement Tuesday. “We’ve won the Fight for $15, and we’ve won the fight to ensure that workers can take job-protected paid time off from work to take care of themselves or a family member after a medical emergency or the birth or adoption of a new child.”

The compromise legislation was the result of months of negotiations forced by ballot activists. The Raise Up coalition voted last week to drop its paid family and medical leave ballot proposal, but waited until Tuesday to make a determination about its minimum wage question.

In agreeing to the so-called grand bargain, the coalition would pass on bringing its version of the minimum wage increase bill to the voters. Had the question gone to the ballot and won, Raise Up could have celebrated securing a hike to $15 per hour in four years rather than five and would have ensured that the minimum wage was annually indexed to inflation.

But at risk was a possible $1.2 billion hit to state tax revenue if retailers had taken their sales tax rate cut question to the ballot. After scoring a series of concessions in the grand bargain, the retailers agreed to drop the proposed sales tax ballot question.

If all three ballot questions are dropped, that would leave voters in November to decide questions imposing nurse staffing mandates at hospitals and rolling back the state’s new law aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations.

The governor had prodded legislative leaders to find a way to address the issues raised by a series of ballot initiatives, all which he was careful not to take a firm stance on. Though he’s thanked lawmakers for reaching a negotiated compromise, Baker has not said whether he plans to sign the bill or return it with a veto.


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