In a continuing effort to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Majority Whip Richard Durbin met with Boston workers and business owners in a roundtable conference on Monday.
Raising the minimum wage has been an issue circulating the U.S. government for a while now, yet the Massachusetts minimum wage has not been raised in five years. This conference involved advocating for raising not only the Massachusetts minimum wage, but the federal minimum wage as well.
Warren and Durbin both sponsored the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which works to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $10.10 over the course of two years.
“Raising the minimum wage is the first step to rebuild and strengthen America’s middle class,” Warren said in a Monday release. “Congress has not given workers a raise since George W. Bush was president, and the federal hourly minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen in place at $2.13 since George H.W. Bush was in the White House. It’s time to raise the minimum wage because full-time work should not mean full-time poverty.”
Supporters of the movement argue that full-time workers should not still be struggling to pay rent and put food on the table.
“Imagine being a single parent working 40 hours a week to care for your two small children. If you’re working for the current minimum wage, you’re living in poverty,” said Durbin in the release. “Raising the minimum wage will lift millions out of poverty and strengthen the middle class in America.”
The conference’s purpose was to get local workers and businesses to plead their cases for why raising the minimum wage is so vital in hopes of proving that a low minimum wage is hurting hard workers who are contributing to society.
Lew Finfer, co-chair of Raise Up Massachussetts, a coalition that has a ballot initiative dedicated to raising the state minimum wage to $10.50 by 2016 and tying the minimum wage to the rising cost of living, also attended the meeting.
“With over half a million people in Massachusetts and 30 million across America, earning less than $10.50 an hour, we have to stand up together for the dignity and respect owed to low wage workers,” he said in the release. “Our American values say if you work hard, you should not make wages that leave you in poverty and we together are determined to change that.”
Some residents said there would not actually be a qualitative difference because companies will take steps to counteract the higher wages.
“Corporate capitalists may hire less, or give workers less hours or raise prices to make up the difference,” said George Williams, 72, of Roxbury. “They’re going to make sure that they end up on the top one way or another. Profit margins will probably be the same or greater. It’s just another excuse to hire less.”
Ahmi Goldberg, 20, of Boston, said he struggles with a job that does not pay enough, even though it pays higher than the minimum wage.
“It’s definitely important to raise the minimum wage,” he said. “Even as a student where my tuition covers some food and housing, I find that it’s sometimes hard to get by.”
Sheldon Young, 84, of Kenmore, said workers on minimum wage are merely surviving, and that should not be the case for people working hard.
“Wages are way too low, people can’t live on it,” he said. “People are surviving, but the minimum wage needs to be raised so they can have a greater quality of life.”