MTA members are playing a vital role in campaigns to improve the lives of working families through paid family and medical leave and a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Massachusetts.
Educators were among the thousands of demonstrators in Boston on Labor Day supporting striking fast food workers, who are attempting to unionize as well as fight for the higher minimum wage and paid leave.
Bills now before the Legislature — House 2365 and Senate 1004 — would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. And they would include municipal employees, who have not benefited from previous statutory minimum wage increases.
On a parallel track, Raise Up Massachusetts is gathering the signatures necessary for initiative petitions that would add paid leave and the $15 minimum wage to the 2018 ballot. The MTA is a member of the Raise Up coalition, which has already succeeded in getting the Fair Share Amendment on next year’s ballot.
“If the minimum wage does not rise for all, Massachusetts will be penalizing countless public employees, including many of our education support professionals, who deliver vital health, safety and education services”Barbara Madeloni
"The MTA is proud to be a member of the Raise Up coalition," said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. "Our members understand the impact on the children we educate when a family struggles financially. Increasing the minimum wage and allowing paid leave for someone to care for a child or relative are reasonable steps we can take to greatly improve our communities."
The coalition successfully spearheaded a previous campaign to raise the state’s minimum hourly wage — now at $11 an hour — and led the effort to establish earned sick leave for workers.
Madeloni said that preferably the Legislature will pass the minimum wage bills currently before it.
Because of Proposition 2 guidelines, extending an increase in the minimum wage to public employees via legislation requires either passage by a two-thirds majority of lawmakers or a sufficient budget appropriation.
If the measure is placed on the ballot instead of being resolved at the State House, municipal employees would still need a bill passed making them eligible for the higher minimum wage. Many MTA members who are education support professionals currently earn less than $15 an hour.
"If the minimum wage does not rise for all, Massachusetts will be penalizing countless public employees, including many of our education support professionals, who deliver vital health, safety and education services," Madeloni said.
According to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, raising the minimum hourly wage to $15 would benefit close to 1 million workers, or about 30 percent of the state’s workforce.
Raise Up will seek at least 200,000 signatures by late November to place the two measures before voters. After the necessary signatures are gathered, the Legislature has until June 2018 to act.
Raise Up proposes a Paid Family Leave and Medical Leave Insurance Program that would cover up to 16 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for an ill or injured family member or a new child — and up to 26 weeks of job-protected leave for one’s own serious illness or injury.
The Fair Share Amendment ballot question will ask voters to approve an additional 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million. Projected revenue, estimated at nearly $2 billion a year, would be used for public education and transportation needs.
"I look forward to joining my MTA brothers and sisters and our Raise Up partners in collecting signatures and doing this crucial work to help students, families and our communities," Madeloni said.
This story initially appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of MTA Today.