SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 21, 2014

Retailers bracing for possible minimum-wage hike

(Continued)

“We obviously want to help out those on the lower rungs, but we don’t want to hurt small-business owners, a lot of whom are still struggling,” Keenan said.

The state’s minimum wage is now one of the highest in the country, but either the Senate or House bills would put Massachusetts at the top of the scale. New York and Connecticut currently have the highest rates, at $9 an hour. Their legislatures are also considering increases.

New Hampshire’s House of Representatives recently voted to increase its minimum wage from $7.25 to $9, but the Senate still must approve the measure, no sure bet given the conservative nature of the Granite State. In Vermont, where annual increases are tied to inflation, the minimum wage is $8.73. In Connecticut, it’s $8.70; Rhode Island, $8; and Maine, $7.50.

“The cost of everything else is going up, but workers aren’t getting more,” said Lisa Salvadorini, who works for $9 an hour at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Peabody. “It’s the right thing to do.”

In January, President Barack Obama signed an executive order increasing the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour, up from $7.25, as part of an effort to build momentum to raise the federal minimum wage. The federal rate has been pegged at $7.25 per hour since 2009.

The White House estimates nearly 500,000 federal workers in Massachusetts will get a pay raise because of the executive order.

Robert Bradford, president of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, said retailers aren’t stingy, but they want to make sure any increase doesn’t “put them at a competitive disadvantage” with stores in Maine and New Hampshire.

The chamber’s board of directors voted in January to oppose the Senate bill, but it hasn’t taken a position on DeLeo’s bill.

“We’re not opposed to raising the minimum wage. We just want to make sure that it’s in line with neighboring states,” Bradford said. “We want a level playing field.”

AT A GLANCe

House Bill

Raises minimum wage incrementally to $10.50 an hour by 2016

Raises minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.63 to $3.75 an hour by 2016.

No provision for increases after 2016 tied to inflation

Senate Bill

Raises minimum wage incrementally to $11 an hour by 2016.

Raises minimum wage for tipped workers to $4 by 2016.

Allows for increases after 2016 tied to inflation.

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