Today’s News & Commentary — June 22, 2018
Both chambers of the Massachusetts state legislature have passed a “grand bargain” bill that — if signed by Governor Charlie Baker — will increase the minimum wage for most workers from $11/hour to $15/hour over the course of five years and will increase the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $6.75 over the same time period. If signed, this bill will also grant workers throughout the state up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and 20 weeks of paid medical leave; this paid leave program will be funded through a payroll tax. The legislation will also phase out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays. Additionally, it will establish a sales tax holiday every August. Governor Baker told the press that the bill “fits the contours” of legislation that he would support.
The Massachusetts legislature passed this bill largely in response to Raise Up Massachusetts’ efforts to place the minimum wage hike and paid sick leave plan directly on the ballot in November. (Raise Up MA is a coalition of unions and community groups.) On Thursday, Raise Up MA praised the paid family and medical leave portion of the grand bargain bill as “a historic victory” and announced that if the Governor signs the bill, the coalition will not put its paid leave proposal on the ballot. Raise Up MA is still reviewing the minimum wage portion of the bill. The group stated that while this legislation is a “major victory” for the nearly one million workers who will receive a raise, the coalition is “troubled” by the more modest wage hike for tipped workers, exclusions or some public sector workers, and elimination of Sunday time-and-a-half pay.
Graduate student workers at Brown have signed an agreement with Brown University to hold a union election this fall under the auspices of the American Arbitration Association, rather than the National Labor Relations Board. The graduate student workers are organizing with Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. In April, the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees signed a similar election agreement with Georgetown University. These private agreements come at a time when graduate workers are wary about giving the NLRB an opportunity to overturn its 2016 decision in Columbia that granted collective bargaining rights to graduate workers at private universities.
Now that DC voters have voted to approve Initiative 77, which will gradually raise the minimum wages of tipped workers in the District to equal those of their non-tipped counterparts, both supporters and opponents of the Initiative are taking their fight to the DC Council. Under DC law, the council and mayor can amend or repeal ballot initiatives just as they can amend or repeal any other law. Before the vote, the mayor and ten out of thirteen council members opposed the initiative. Leaders of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC, the workers’ center which led the effort to pass Initiative 77, have indicated that they would be willing to work out a compromise with the Restaurant Association, but the DC Restaurant Association president said that the business group is uninterested in compromise.