Massachusetts' minimum wage is one of the highest in the country, but low-income workers say they need a pay raise.
On Jan. 1, the state's minimum wage rose to $11, the final hike in a three-step process to raise the minimum wage. But as Massachusetts settles into its higher wage, more than a dozen states have plans to surpass the Bay State's minimum wage in the next four years and local workers are already pushing for more.
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Raise Up Massachusetts, a grassroots coalition of community organizations, religious groups and labor unions plans to introduce legislation this month that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If lawmakers don't support this plan, the organization is ready to push for a ballot referendum in 2018.
The plan would be implemented over several years, spokesman Andrew Farnitano said.
"We know there is momentum around country for higher wages and we know that voters support it," he said.
Industry advocates are pushing back against another wage hike, saying the increased cost of paying workers could drive business out of the state.
Two surveysby Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a pro-business lobby, found three-quarters of Bay State employers would see costs rise if there is anotherminimum wage hike and called it an "ineffective way to address income inequality."
They suggested investments in education and vocational training.
"Minimum-wage increases impose an arbitrary standard of value on entry-level jobs, disproportionately burdening small businesses while creating no long-term improvement in living standards for people at the lower end of the wage scale," the group said in a statement.
But advocates of low-wage workers aren't buying it.
Since the 2014 measure to increase the minimum wage, Massachusetts has its lowest unemployment rate since 2001, and industry hascreated 150,000 jobs.
"We know from that experienceand from experiencesacross the county,when we put more money in the hands of working people, we knowit goes back into the local economy," Farnitano said.