Senator Dan Wolf
Massachusetts Cape & Islands District
Governor Patrick Signs Legislation Raising Minimum Wage to Highest in Nation
Bill Strengthens Worker Protections, Reforms Unemployment Insurance

– Thursday, June 26, 2014 – Today, Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich) joined Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, Speaker Robert DeLeo, his Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Tom Conroy, legislators, organized labor, business leaders and worker advocates to celebrate landmark legislation, “An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms,” that raises the minimum wage to $11 over three years, lowers unemployment insurance (UI) costs for employers, strengthens safety protections for workers and makes permanent the multi-agency task force charged with combatting the underground economy.

The legislation restores the purchasing power of the state’s minimum wage to a level approaching what Massachusetts workers enjoyed more than four decades ago, reversing decades of slippage. Starting January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will be raised $1.00 from its current level, to $9.00 an hour. On January 1, 2016, the wage will go up to $10.00 an hour, and will rise to $11.00 on January 1, 2017. The wages for tipped workers will also increase, from $2.63 an hour to $3.75 by 2017. Minimum wage workers in the Commonwealth will see a 37.5% increase in wages over the course of the next three years; tipped workers will see a 45% increase.

“Raising the minimum wage is a victory for working people across this Commonwealth,” said Senator Wolf. "As a matter of fundamental fairness and economic policy, helping hardworking people and stimulating economic growth, restoring the minimum wage is the right thing to do; however, we won't be done with our work until we close the gap between the minimum wage and a living wage. We cannot stop here.”;

The legislation reforms the state unemployment insurance system without reducing benefits. Reforms to the state’s unemployment insurance system freeze UI rates for employers for three years and expand the wage base subject to those rates to $15,000. Additionally, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) would be required to notify employers of their experience rating by January 31st of each year.

“The reforms to unemployment insurance will provide more certainty and balance for employers,” said Senator Wolf. “Contributions will be more closely tied to hiring and firing records and whistleblowers will be protected from retaliation. Additionally, commercial fishermen who are unable to fish due to fisheries management regulations would receive protection.”;

The legislation also expands OSHA protections to state workers, creates a commission to investigate the adjudication of unemployment claims by DUA, establishes a council on the underground economy, directs DUA to create a pilot program to provide skills training internships for residents who are unemployed, and increases the workers’ compensation burial benefit.