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Food and Commercial Workers Angry About Losing Time-and-a-Half Pay

Despite rallies and demonstrations, Massachusetts workers are slated to lose time-and-a-half pay once their contracts expire under a new state law. (UFCW)
Despite rallies and demonstrations, Massachusetts workers are slated to lose time-and-a-half pay once their contracts expire under a new state law. (UFCW)
July 2, 2018

BOSTON — There's mixed reaction over legislation signed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker last week, which raises the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour and provides for paid family leave. But over five years, it also cuts premium pay.

"Time-and-a-half" Sunday and holiday pay has benefited workers since 1977, when so-called blue laws were repealed to benefit retailers. While the Retailers Association of Massachusetts sees the new law as a big win, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers' union are on the other side of the issue. Their political director, Jim Carvalho, said they're very disappointed.

"We are opposed to the bill in its final form because it actually cuts a lot of workers' wages with the elimination of time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays,” Carvalho said. “There's going to be a lot of retail and grocery workers that actually face a pay cut because of the legislation."

He said they're also angry at lawmakers and the governor for citing "progressive" policies in passing the bill. Carvalho contends it was done to appease the Retailers Association, so that group would back off its move to lower the state sales tax from 6.2 percent to 5 percent.

Many retail and food workers across the state already earn $15 an hour. Carvalho added that for them, in a high-cost state like Massachusetts, they'll be losing part of their salaries.

"Two-bedroom apartments in the Greater Boston area are just ridiculously expensive. Our members rely on the Sunday time-and-a-half to make ends meet, to buy their kids back-to-school supplies, save up for college if they're students,” he said. “They can barely afford to stay afloat now, and then to take a pay cut is just going to kill 'em."

The Retailers Association sees phasing out the premium pay for Sundays and holidays as a way to mitigate the effects of retailers having to pay the $15 minimum wage. The UFCW says it's looking at all options to get premium pay restored.

Linda Barr, Public News Service - MA