The “Grand Bargain”

It’s an irritating phrase, mostly because it implies a collaboration in reaching a desired outcome. But I’m critical of the process that got us to the GB. It was not the kind of process I would have wanted.

Actually, there was no process. Legislators saw the compromise bill Wednesday morning and voted it Wednesday afternoon. Too fast. It’s another example of the kind of controlling leadership that exists in the State House.

Not to mention that the House could have moved much sooner on this, instead of waiting to the last minute. (Another reason we need to continue to grow the Progressive Caucus!)

That being said…

It’s clearly a huge victory for the Raise Up coalition and for workers across the Commonwealth. About a million workers will see an increase in the minimum wage — from $11 to $15. Many millions of people will now have Paid Family and Medical Leave:

  • 12 weeks of paid family leave for a new child
  • 20 weeks of paid medical leave for serious illness or injury

On the other hand, many other people have been left behind:

  • Sunday retail workers will no longer make time and a half
  • No justice for tipped workers

If I’m elected, one of my priorities will be catching up to the people who got left behind in the Grand Bargain. More than half of the people working these minimum wage jobs are women, many of them single moms.

Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that, if the federal minimum wage had kept pace with productivity after it’s high-point in 1968, the minimum wage in 2012 would have been $21.72 an hour. Here we are, six years later, and that hourly wage is closer to $30 an hour. And we’re scrabbling for $15, which passed without indexing to inflation (so once fully enacted it will actually be less).

We keep talking about a minimum wage. How about we start talking about a living wage?

Our state’s economy works best for everyone when all working people are able to meet their basic needs. Economic security depends on good paying jobs.

I’m pleased that we continue to build on past progress and that the minimum wage will be $15. But, let’s not lose sight of the yawning wage gap that continues between the rich, who have profited unequally by the productivity of workers. Addressing income inequality remains one of our most pressing issues.