Opinion

Minimum-wage workers deserve a pay increase

We support the drive by U.S. Rep. John Tierney to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over two years and then linking it to the cost-of-living index, as well as a proposal on Beacon Hill to raise the state minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2015.

The state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) last week warned of dire consequences if the latter is approved.

“This proposal would hit the economy like a wrecking ball,” state NFIB Director Bill Vernon told the State House News Service.

Yet, according to the News Service, state Budget and Policy Center research shows there was an increase in employment in sectors with the highest number of minimum-wage workers each of the six times the wage was increased in Massachusetts since 1995.

With the Republican-controlled House in Washington, the bill Tierney is co-sponsoring is a long shot at best. But reasonable lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should recognize that those on the lowest end of the earnings spectrum don’t come close to a living wage — at a time when the price of, well, everything, is soaring.

Some argue most minimum-wage workers are not a head of household and include many youths who are starting out in the workforce. But consider that a four-year college degree today comes at a cost averaging well above $100,000, that $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage ($290 a week gross for 40 hours) doesn’t make much of a dent toward that.

We expect there will be a good crowd tonight at the Lynn Museum for a New Lynn Coalition jobs forum (6-8 p.m.), at which minimum wage versus living wage will be one of the topics of discussion.

And while Tierney’s bill will probably end up dead on arrival as most Democrat proposals do in this Congress, the proposal on the state level may have a better chance, even as advocates push for a 2014 state ballot referendum on whether the Bay State’s lowest-earning workers deserve more.

We believe they do.

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