State minimum wage rose on Jan. 1

Minimum wage in Massachusetts reached $11 on Jan. 1. —Wiki Commons

According to the State House News Service, on Sunday, Jan. 1, nearly half a million of the lowest-paid workers in Massachusetts received their third annual pay increase as the minimum hourly wage reached $11. In 2014, when the minimum wage stood at $8 per hour, and activists mobilized to bring a minimum-wage referendum to the state ballot, lawmakers passed a bill increasing the minimum wage one dollar per year over the next three years. Since July 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour.

The same Raise Up Massachusetts coalition that successfully pushed for the last minimum wage increase has begun beating the drum for a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Massachusetts, which would be just over twice as large as the federal minimum wage. Raise Up Massachusetts reported that there are nearly 500,000 “low-wage workers” due for a pay raise Sunday. The group also noted the state’s low unemployment rate, which stood at 2.9 percent in November, its lowest level since January 2001.

The law will also increase the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as waiters, to $3.75 per hour, up from $2.63 in 2014. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the minimum wages in New York City, the District of Columbia, and California are scheduled to reach $15 per hour. Minimum-wage workers in New York City will make $15 per hour by the end of 2018, according to the conference. In New England, Rhode Island has a $9.60 minimum hourly wage; the minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $10.50 in Vermont, to $10.10 in Connecticut, and eventually to $12 in Maine in 2020; New Hampshire has no state minimum wage.