SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

February 5, 2014

'Lower and slower'

Business leaders take stand against minimum wage bill

Local business leaders are speaking out against a proposed hike in the state minimum wage, calling for a smaller, more gradual increase than the one proposed in the Senate bill passed in November.

The North Shore Chamber of Commerce board voted in January to oppose the Senate bill. And on Monday, the Salem Chamber of Commerce hosted a program on the minimum wage debate featuring speakers from the retail and restaurant industries opposing the Senate bill.

“We say ‘lower and slower,’ whatever that means,” said Rinus Oosthoek, president of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t want to kill job creation right now.”

The Senate bill, which still needs approval in the House, would hike the minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2016, and then link future wage hikes to inflation. The bill also calls for a dramatic boost to the tip wage employers must pay waitstaff, increasing gradually from $2.63 an hour to $5.50.

“We are looking for a reasonable minimum wage increase,” said Beverly resident Jon Hurst, who is president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. He said the Massachusetts minimum wage should be in line with those of other states. New Hampshire, for instance, has a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is the federal minimum. If the Bay State jumps to $11 an hour, it would put those doing business on the border at a disadvantage, he said.

A higher minimum wage can increase costs for all businesses, Hurst said, and hurt small downtown retailers, who face increasing competition from online retailers.

State Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, said she also favors a more modest minimum wage hike. She voted last fall in favor of the Senate bill, which was pushed by Senate President Therese Murray, she said, but also voted for amendments proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, “to slow the train down.”

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