Massachusetts Minimum Wage Will Gradually Rise to $15 an Hour

The Massachusetts minimum wage will rise to $15 an hour over five years, and a new paid family and medical leave program will be introduced, under a bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law on Thursday.

WBUR reports that the so-called “grand bargain” was designed to keep several ballot questions — including a proposal to cut the Massachusetts sales tax — off the November ballot.

In a statement, Baker said he was thankful that all parties came together on “a better set of policies than what the ballot questions represented.”

Massachusetts is now the third state — after California and New York — with a pay floor on the way to $15 an hour.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which advocates for higher minimum wages, has estimatedthat a quarter of the Massachusetts workforce — about 840,000 workers — would see raises as a result of a $15 minimum wage by 2023.

Baker’s signature Thursday came almost exactly four years after then-Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law outlining an $11-an-hour pay floor. At the time, the stepped-up hike to $11 was a high among states.

Opponents of higher minimum wages say they just increase labor costs, which force employers to then raise prices and/or cut other wages, benefits or jobs. Some proponents of higher pay floors also worry about the untested $15 minimum in locations outside high-cost labor markets.

The new law will also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, over five years, to $6.75.

In addition, the measure — over the same five years — phases out time-and-a-half pay for Sunday and holiday hourly workers. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only states that mandate time-and-a-half for Sunday workers.

WBUR reports that the paid leave program would work as follows: Employees would be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member or bond with a new child, and take up to 20 weeks to deal with a personal medical issue.

“Weekly benefit amounts,” the governor’s office said in a statement, “will be calculated as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a maximum weekly benefit of $850.”

The $800 million paid leave program will be financed by a new 0.63 percent payroll tax split roughly by both employers and employees.

The “grand bargain” compromise came together quickly after the state high court ruled that a proposed ballot question pairing a surtax on income over $1 million with spending on transportation and education initiatives was unconstitutional.

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