With the support of Senator Jason Lewis, the Senate on Thursday, May 1, passed a bill that restores the value of the minimum wage in Massachusetts by increasing the minimum wage to $11 by 2016 and tying future increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Northeast region. The bill also increases wages for tipped workers to 50 percent of the minimum wage.
Adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage in 1968 would be worth $10.72 per hour today. A full-time minimum wage worker in 1968 earned $21,400 in today’s dollars, about $5,400 dollars more than a full-time minimum wage worker earns today.
“People who work full-time to support themselves and their families shouldn’t have to just scrape by,” exclaimed Senator Lewis. “It’s a matter of basic economic fairness. It will also strengthen our local economies by putting more dollars in the pockets of families who will spend those dollars in their communities.”
Senator Lewis added, “Indexing the minimum wage to inflation is a critically important step to make sure that the buying power of low-income families doesn’t perpetually diminish over time.”
Under this bill, Massachusetts will join ten other states that currently index the minimum wage to inflation. As a member of the House of Representatives earlier this year, Senator Lewis voted in favor of the House’s version of the minimum wage increase bill, but he was eager to support the Senate’s more robust version, as the House version did not include indexing the minimum wage to inflation.
The legislatures in four other states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) enacted bills to increase the minimum wage starting in 2014. In addition, New Jersey voters approved a Constitutional amendment this month to raise the minimum wage in 2014 and tie increases to cost of living.
Following passage in the Senate, the bill will move to a conference committee between the House and Senate to forge consensus between the two houses’ differing bills.