There are some very important measures in this bill. We might not have been able to pass such a strong Family and Medical Leave law without passing either the ballot question or this "bargain.
We could probably have passed the minimum wage increase with or without the ballot. But if the ballot initiative had passed, it would have indexed the minimum wage and raised it more quickly.
But there are also some very disturbing parts of the bill.
The bill phases out time and half pay for retail workers on Sundays. This is part of the continued erosion of worker protections, and of unions, which protect all the working class. Remember this bumper sticker? The Labor Movement: the folks who brought you the weekend. Weekends are a thing of the past for many. Family time has been eroded; there is no common day of rest.
Restaurant workers are once again left behind; a $6.75 sub-minimum wage will be phased in, up from $3.75. The problem isn't just income inequality, but power disparity. 80% of tipped minimum wage workers report sexual harassment by their bosses, coworkers and customers. (Read more in a previous newsletter.)
Seven states and DC have eliminated the sub-minimum wage; they all have higher restaurant sales, higher restaurant growth, and higher tips. We will continue to work on this.
The bill establishes an annual Sales Tax Holiday, which will cost $30 million in revenue every year. For the past 3 years, the legislature hasn’t adopted a sales tax holiday; we knew we couldn't afford it and the cost wasn’t worth it.
For $30 million we could have increased pay for some very underpaid workers, again mostly women, again part of wage inequality: early childhood educators and home care workers. Important spending priorities like these were sacrificed to keep the retailers from putting a sales tax cut on the ballot.
The Retailers Association of Mass. (RAM), which represents largely big box stores, dictated the terms of this bargain. Big box stores have driven out thousands of small businesses and are now competing online.
RAM demanded BOTH the elimination of Sunday premium pay AND the sales tax holiday. Very small businesses aren't required to pay time and a half, and small businesses benefit the least from sales tax holidays.
I'm angry that we are being bullied into passing policies we would never have done without this threat.
We were in the intolerable position of voting yes or no on a combination of unrelated proposals.
Now it should be a priority to replace the $30 million the sales tax holiday will cost, and the potential $2 billion lost due to the SJC decision.