BOSTON (WWLP) - Over the past 40 years, the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. It's one of the reasons more than one hundred union members and minimum wage workers are fighting for fair wages and benefits. They marched through Beacon Hill Thursday in support of legislation that would increase the minimum wage from $8/hour to $11/hour by 2015.
They're also backing a bill that requires employers to give one hour of paid sick leave to employees for every 30 hours worked – the equivalent of about one week per year. Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition coordinator Jordan Berg Powers says many of his family members do not get paid sick leave.
"They had to choose between caring for their child or not being able to put food on the table. That's a false choice. We should not be making people make that choice," said Powers.
Protesters marched to the headquarters of their leading opponents, the Massachusetts Retailers Association.
"It really puts a one size fits all approach and businesses come in all shapes and sizes," said Massachusetts Retailers Association Vice President Bill Rennie. "If you're mandating additional benefits whether it be paid sick or you're raising you know minimum wage you're really… hurting our ability to grow jobs."
But protestors believe unhealthy workers who are struggling to make ends meet are less productive and are spending less. They say that's bad for business overall. The state Legislature's Labor and Workforce Development Committee Senate Chairman Dan Wolf hopes to have the legislation passed this session.
"We have a hearing schedule early this term so that we'll have plenty of time to work it out of the committee and we do hope to get it out fairly quickly," said Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich).
Senator Wolf is the lead sponsor of the legislation and founder of Cape Air, an airline with more than 1000 employees. He says fair wages and benefits promote employee loyalty and creates a healthier work environment.