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Signatures Could Put Paid Leave, $15 Wage on Ballot

Family leave would let workers take off up to 16 weeks to care for a new baby or sick relative. (smpratt90/Pixabay)
Family leave would let workers take off up to 16 weeks to care for a new baby or sick relative. (smpratt90/Pixabay)
December 7, 2017

BOSTON -- Community organizers say they have twice the number of signatures they need to put paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage on next year's state ballot.

The grassroots effort gathered almost 275,000 signatures from 346 of the 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts. Andrew Farnitano with Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition supporting the effort, said the numbers show that past wage increases for workers benefited everyone in the state.

"I think that people in Massachusetts realize that, and they realize that these are common sense things we can do to help working people and strengthen our economy,” Farnitano said.

If the state Legislature doesn't act on the issues by the end of June, the coalition will need to collect about 11,000 more signatures to secure their place on the ballot in November.

According to Farnitano, paid family leave would allow workers to collect benefits equal to 90 percent of their pay, up to $1,000 a week for up to 16 weeks, to care for a new child or sick family member. And funding the measure would be similar to Social Security.

"Employers and their employees would pay into an insurance fund that would then pay the benefits for workers who are taking time off,” he explained.

Contributions to the new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund would be less than two-thirds of 1 percent of weekly wages.

Farnitano said when wages go up for working people, they spend that money locally. He noted that since raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour, unemployment has dropped and job growth is greater than before the recession. But it's still not enough to live on.

"Gradually raising the minimum wage a dollar an hour each year until it reaches $15 an hour is the right thing to do for working people and for our entire economy,” he said.

Increasing the minimum wage would raise the pay of almost 1 million Massachusetts workers.

More information is available at RaiseUpMA.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - MA