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Grassroots Campaigners Bask in MA Minimum-Wage "Victory"

Paid family and sick leave is considered a victory for moms who need to take time off with a new baby, an aging parent or in case of family illness. (RaiseUpMA)
Paid family and sick leave is considered a victory for moms who need to take time off with a new baby, an aging parent or in case of family illness. (RaiseUpMA)
July 4, 2018

BOSTON – Paid family and medical leave and a $15 minimum wage is cause for celebration for tens of thousands of Massachusetts workers this Independence Day.

The so-called "Grand Bargain" bill, signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last week, was a triumph of consensual policy-making between community groups, labor and business, according to the Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition. Its co-chair and SEIU State Council executive director, Harris Gruman, said the fight wasn't easy. He pointed to a massive effort to defeat a move to pay teenagers a sub-minimum wage.

"We fought that back with a very vigorous grassroots campaign," he said. "We had community briefings with legislators across the state; they heard from youths and they heard from community members that we should not discriminate against youth. They should be able to get equal pay for equal work, and save for college and help their families."

This means 84 percent of working teens will get a raise – a boost to low-income families, 18 percent of whom depend on their teens' earnings. For SEIU members - in historically lower-paid jobs such as child-care workers, home health aides and hospital orderlies - the "Grand Bargain" will be a serious improvement in their lives.

According to Gruman, the goal for the Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition was to get to the $15 hourly wage without hurting any group of workers or leaving vulnerable families behind. That didn't exactly happen, though, as retail workers are losing their time-and-a-half pay for Sunday and holiday shifts.

"We are very disappointed that the Legislature gave in on getting rid of premium pay on Sunday and holidays," Gruman said, "which is also part of life-work balance and it's also an essential part of a lot of workers' incomes."

Overall, however, the $15 wage is expected to provide a pay raise for 840,000 Massachusetts workers by 2023 – a total increase of $2.75 billion across the state.

Details of the Massachusetts budget are online at massbudget.org, and the text of H 4640 is at malegislature.gov.


Linda Barr, Public News Service - MA