In a column in these pages on Feb. 3, the president of the Massachusetts Retailers Association called for delaying legislation to raise the state minimum wage until the bill includes labor law changes and reform of the unemployment compensation system. He suggested that this approach is favored by the “employer community.”
Not so fast. There are many Massachusetts employers who support an immediate hike in the minimum wage, and are unwilling to see this much-needed legislation delayed by tacking on other, much more complicated initiatives, as the Massachusetts Retailers Association would like.
As a member of the Alliance for Business Leadership, an organization of CEOs, investors, and business innovators, I am joined by many high-level executives in calling for an immediate rise in the minimum wage.
I am CEO of TRU Corporation, a company with 60 years of manufacturing experience on the North Shore. The success of TRU Corporation and many similar companies in our region relies on employees in all wage categories. As CEOs we depend on all our employees to get to work every day, stay healthy and minimize external distractions. In exchange for that expectation we need to set wages at a level that makes this possible. None of this is possible for employees whose pay cannot put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads.
While it can be unreasonable to expect a business in an industry that relies on low-wage workers to increase pay unilaterally and put itself at a competitive disadvantage, it is completely reasonable to level the playing field and ask every business to pay a higher minimum wage.
The important discussion of how to improve labor laws and reform the unemployment compensation system should go forward. But these are complicated questions that will take time to resolve in everyone’s best interests, and there is absolutely no reason to delay raising the minimum wage while we’re discussing further reforms.