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November 23, 2013 / needhamgrassroots

Differences Between Democrats: A Closer Look at the Minimum Wage Vote

donkey-and-elephantThe Mass. Senate’s passage of “An Act to Restore the Minimum Wage” is so far a high point in this legislative session, and illustrates the power of grassroots organizing to spur legislative action: the minimum wage hadn’t been changed by the Legislature in 7 years, until hundreds of thousands of citizens signed Raise Up Mass petitions and hundreds of volunteers across the Commonwealth mobilized to get it done.

Progressive Mass outlined the ways in which this was a good vote, and highlighted the disappointments in the passage of the final bill. But as always with the Massachusetts Legislature, there’s much more to be seen when you start to peel back the layers and look not only at the final passage of a bill, but also at the AMENDMENT process. And the Minimum Wage bill’s amendments votes are illuminating, showing stark differences between Democrats.

Although only 4 Democrats voted against the final passage of the “Act to Restore the Minimum Wage,” — before the final vote, 9 Democrats voted to make the bill much weaker, while 13 Democrats pushed to make the bill stronger and better (names and details below). These distinctions are not captured in the final 33-7 vote.

Warning. The details are dense and may be of interest only to the true politics-n-policy nerds.

But the bottom line is important, and it is this: embedded in the dense/confusing amendment process, legislators often have opportunities to push for better bills/policy–and much worse ones. It is in inspecting these details that we can see why it is supposedly liberal Massachusetts has been passing, or coming close to passing, some really bad legislation (punitive welfare ‘reforms,’ three strikes prison ‘reforms,’ inadequate investment in our communities, weak election reform).

In assessing our electeds, and pushing for a more progressive Massachusetts, it’s imperative to take note where senators choose to stand: who pushed for more, who pushed for less. And it’s important to remember — these differences between Democrats are often (by design?) obscured in final passage votes, and buried deep within a complicated journey before the bill becomes a law.

Reviewing these amendments after the vote can bring these differences to light.

MORE DETAILS BELOW

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DEMOCRATS:

TIPPED WAGES AT 60%, 50% or 35% OF THE MINIMUM WAGE?

  • Tipped wages, such as earned  by waiters, is currently $2.63/hour, and has not been raised since 1999.

  • The tipped wage has lost 58% of its value since 1968.

  • The Raise Up Mass. ballot petition seeks to raise the tipped wage to 60% of the state minimum wage. [++]

  • Senate bill #1925 did not increase tipped wages, only the minimum wage. [-]

  • Sen. Dan Wolf introduced Amendment #1, to raise the tipped wage to 50% of the minimum wage. [+]

  • Sen. Pacheco, in a vigorous floor speech that referenced the vast public support for Raise Up MA, introduced Amendment 1.1, to raise the tipped wage to 60% of the minimum wage — (at the same rate as the Raise Up ballot proposal). [++]

  • In turn, Sen. Tarr introduced Amendment 1.2, to only raise the tipped wage to 35% of the minimum wage (15% less than Sen. Wolf’s amendment, 25% less than Sen. Pacheco’s amendment and the Raise Up proposal). [-]

  • more background from MassBudget.org

In the end, the 50% tipped wage (Sen Wolf’s Amendment #1) is what passed [see chart, Amdt. 1]. Did your Senator stand up for Sen. Pacheco’s amendment (1.1), raising the rate to 60% [see chart, Amdt. 1.1]? Did your Senator try to make reduce the tipped wage increase, voting yes on Tarr’s Amendment. 1.2 [see chart, Amdt. 1.2]?

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DEMOCRATS:

A MUCH LOWER MINIMUM WAGE–AND NO INDEXING!

  • The minimum wage in 1968 was valued at $10.50/hour [+]. Today it’s $8 [-].

  • When the minimum wage remains static, it loses value every day, due to the slow but unstoppable rise of inflation (costs rise, but the minimum wage stays the same) [-].

  • The minimum wage has not been changed since 2008, inexorable losing value over 5 years [-].

  • “Indexing to inflation” would make automatic increases to the minimum wage, every year, at the same rate of inflation, meaning the wage would not lose that value over time [+].

  • Keeping minimum wage increases tied to inflation would also avoid the need for steep adjustments every few years — which is more difficult for businesses to absorb than small incremental increases every year [+].

  • O’Connor Ives introduced Amendment 12, proposing to only raise the minimum wage to $9 — keeping the wage well below the 1968 purchasing power [-].

  • O’Connor Ives’s amendment would also strip “indexing” from the bill: again leaving the wage subject to incremental loss in value — decreasing the poor’s purchasing power year by year [-].

Did your Senator vote to reduce this long-overdue increase in the minimum wage? Did your Senator vote to let the minimum wage continue to lose value over time, by decoupling automatic future increases from inflation? [SEE CHART]

____

BOTTOM LINE — WHO PUSHED FOR MORE? WHO PUSHED FOR LESS? (more details after flip)

Senators who pushed for a better bill [Pacheco Amendment 1.1, Roll Call 210, Yea votes]

Republicans: None
Democrats: Barrett, Brownsberger, Chang-Diaz, Clark, DiDomenico, Downing, Eldridge, Forry, Jehlen, Joyce, McGee, Montigny, Pacheco

Senators who voted to WEAKEN the bill:

[O’Connor Ives Amendment 12, Roll Call 214, Yea votes]

Republicans (expected): Hedlund, Ross, Tarr
Democrats:  Donoghue, Lovely, R. Moore, O’Connor Ives, Timilty

[Tarr Amendment 1.2, Roll Call 211, Yea Votes]:

Republicans (expected): Hedlund, Ross, Tarr
Democrats: M. Moore, O’Connor-Ives, Petrucelli, Rodrigues, Timilty

USEFUL LINKS – REFERENCED IN THIS BLOG POST:

Senate Bill #1925: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/Senate/S1925

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