Rodrigues: If $15 Minimum Wage Goes Before Voters, ‘It Will Pass’
In an appearance with WBSM's Barry Richard, Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) said he is in support of raising the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour, because it's going to happen anyway.
"I would support it, if it's done so in a reasonable time," he said. "Sooner or later, it's going to get there anyway."
Rodrigues is co-chair of a new Senate's Task Force on Strengthening Massachusetts Local Retail, created by the state Senate to identify ways to help local retailers become more competitive. Other senators on the task force include co-chair Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth, as well as Michael Barrett, Julian Cyr, Jason Lewis and Kathleen O'Connor-Ives.
There are also retailers appointed to the task force, including Peter Kavanaugh of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Dartmouth. Other retailers include Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business; John Cahill of Landry & Arcani Rugs in Salem; Christopher Connolly, president of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association; Judy Herrell, owner of Herrell's Ice Cream in Northampton; Barry Rotman, board chairman of Rotman's Furniture in Worcester; retail consultant Malcolm Sherman;
The task force also features Jim Carvalho, political director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445; Harris Gruman, executive director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council; and Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.
The task force is charged with reporting its recommendations by June 1, 2018.
"We're looking at what we can do as a legislature to help our brick-and-mortar retailers compete," Rodrigues said. "We'll talk about issues like minimum wage, the effect sales tax has on brick-and-mortar retailers, and ways to help retailers incentivize folks to change their shopping habits and patronage their local retailers."
In addition to being the Senate Majority Whip and a member of a number of committees, Rodrigues is also a business owner, having owned and operated ABC Carpets in Westport since 1982. He knows what it's like to run a business in Massachusetts.
Rodrigues also said he's been in the Senate for 21 years, and throughout his entire tenure, there has always been some kind of minimum wage bill before the legislature, including the current bill that would call for it to be raised to $15 an hour.
The organization Raise Up Massachusetts has also launched a ballot initiative to put the question on the November 2018 state ballot, and Rodrigues thinks that if it goes to the voters, it's a foregone conclusion that the minimum wage will be raised, but perhaps not in a way that is most effective for the business community.
"We tend to, if we increase minimum wage in the legislature, we try to do it in concert with the business community, certainly recognizing and hearing their concerns," he said. "What we have to decide in the legislature is, do we take up legislation and work in concert with the business community and employer community and try to increase it at a rate that doesn't add undue burdens, or do we just let it go to the voters and accept whatever the voters decide?"
He said putting it to the voters doesn't allow for the opportunity to amend it or make it more reasonable, such as making adjustments to Sunday time-and-a-half requirements, or offering a "training wage" for teens that is sub-minimum.
"That's why it shouldn't be done by the referendum process," Rodrigues said. "If it's done that way, the business community, the retail community, the employer community is not going to have a seat at the table to try to craft or amend the bill. They're not going to be happy about an increase in minimum wage, but at least this way, it's done in a better way, in a way that takes into consideration their concerns."
Rodrigues said discussion has already begun in the legislature in the hopes of passing a bill and not leaving it up to voters to decide.
"Whether or not there's going to be enough conensus by members of both the House and the Senate to bring somethign to floor, whether or not we can bring something to the floor that we can get enough votes by both branches, is still yet to be seen, but absolutely, it is our intention," he said. "I can tell you if it goes to referendum, whatever goes before the voters, it will pass."