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Massachusetts minimum wage now $15 an hour, but some say it's not enough

Minimum wage increases to $15 an hour in Massachusetts
Minimum wage increases to $15 an hour in Massachusetts 02:20

By Courtney Cole, WBZ-TV

BOSTON - For thousands of workers in Massachusetts, the new year means more money. On January 1, 2023, the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour.

In 2018, Governor Baker signed a law, green lighting the yearly, minimum wage increase. The increase to $15, is the final pay bump outlined in the deal. Some argue the increase is not enough because of cost of living and inflation.

"Regulars" could be seen coming in-and-out of the red door of Flat Black on Monday afternoon.

"You're the morning bartender. You're the first guy that someone's going to talk to, because they need their coffee in the morning. It's awesome," said David House, Jr.

Whether it's a flat white or drip by the cup--House, Jr. said the coffee at Flat Black keeps customers coming back.

"We're a small, local coffee shop in Dorchester, we've been here for 20 years," House told WBZ.

With two decades of business and counting, they're quite familiar with the concerns around minimum wage.

"If minimum wage goes up, we have to pay people more to work for us. So, it can be difficult --to the small business-- to watch the profit that comes in, go back out. But it's also a needed raise," said House.

One, that he told WBZ's Courtney Cole, is necessary to live in a big city like Boston.

"You need to have a minimum wage that reflects things like rent and food costs," House told WBZ.

"The solution is really to move toward a living wage," said Lewis Finfer, a community organizer in Massachusetts for the last 50 years.

He's also leader with Raise Up Massachusetts, the organization that fought for the minimum wage increase. Finfer said a more realistic wage is probably closer to $30 an hour.

"We're not going to reach $30 an hour with a new minimum wage, but we definitely need a significant increase," Finfer continued by explaining that there are other things that are needed, too.

"Like job training, vocational education, other education that will help people qualify for better paying jobs. But it is still about employers, what they are paying," Finfer concluded.

"The problem that we've run into is that even though that wage increase has been going on now for several years, we now have this situation that's emerging...of higher costs," said Brian Bethune, an economics professor at Boston College.

Short-term, Bethune said we are seeing some relief with lower gasoline and natural gas prices. Long-term, he said automation could change the conversation around minimum wage in the future.

"There's going to be fewer people working at the minimum wage. We're going to be using automation and more opportunities further up the ladder in terms of better salaries for people - particularly in Massachusetts," said Bethune.

In the meantime, House said they will focus on the two things that have helped them continue to survive and thrive: quality and community.

"Making a good product--you have people that come back and if people come back, then that's what a business needs to survive. That's what it takes, so we put our best foot forward to create the best product we can," said House.

Finfer told Cole Raise Up Massachusetts already had plans to file a bill on January 20th to try and get a new increase to the minimum wage.

Since the minimum wage increase was implemented, Finfer said 840,000 workers in Massachusetts have gotten increases. 

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