It's official: Massachusetts is raising its minimum wage from $8 to $11.
State lawmakers gave final approval yesterday to a bill that would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $9 per hour in 2015, $10 in 2016 and $11 by 2017. Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign the measure into law.
At $11, Massachusetts will have the highest statewide minimum wage in the nation.
The move comes just weeks after Seattle's City Council made headlines for approving a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour. Seattle's plan – which gives corporations with 500 employees or more until 2017 to implement the new minimum wage and small-businesses until 2019 or, in some cases 2021– drew controversy over its decision to classify franchises as big businesses. Arguing that franchisees should be grouped with other small-business owners, the International Franchise Association is suing the city of Seattle.
The IFA does not plan to take similar action in Massachusetts. "While we’re not in favor of raising the minimum wage, the Massachusetts proposal does not affect franchisees in the same way,” an IFA spokesman told Nation's Restaurant News.
The minimum wage debate has drawn heated words from President Obama. In a speech directed at Congressional Republicans who blocked a bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10, he lashed out, saying "Either you want to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up so that prosperity is broad-based, or you think that top-down economics is the way to go."
Meanwhile, critics argue that a higher minimum wage would directly and negatively affect small-business owners and job seekers alike, as employers stop hiring because they can't afford to pay more workers.