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Dear Neighbor,

Many of you have worked hard over the past four years to advance ballot questions that would benefit working people and provide fair increases in state revenue.

Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court removed the Fair Share Amendment from the ballot, disappointing all of us who had hoped to be able to increase funding for education and transportation.

For months, a small group of legislators, led by Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Paul Brodeur, has met with members of the Raise Up Coalition and representatives of the business community, trying to find a "grand bargain" that would get Raise Up to remove from the ballot their proposals to increase the minimum wage and establish paid family and medical leave, and get the Retailers Association to remove their proposal to cut the sales tax to 5%.  That tax cut would have reduced revenue by over a billion dollars a year.

Last Wednesday, with unprecedented speed, the House and Senate voted on the compromise agreed to by legislators, which has led the Retailers to agree to remove their petition, and Raise Up to remove the family leave and minimum wage petitions.

I reluctantly voted for the "compromise" bill, which establishes a family and medical leave program.  It raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour over 5 (instead of 4) years, raises the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to $6.75, and decreases the Sunday premium pay of time and a half over five years. It establishes a permanent sales tax holiday weekend every August.

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.

photo credits: family: HarshaKR,  dollars:, big box: Kevin McShane.(creative commons licenses); bumper sticker: NorthernSun
Copyright © *Committee to Re-Elect Pat Jehlen, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
CTE Pat Jehlen, 67 Dane St, Somerville MA 02143

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