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National Bands Come to Boston and “HONK! For $15″

Last Friday, activist brass bands from across the country descIMG_2152ended on Boston to bang the drum for higher wages and better treatment on the job for low-wage workers. As part of the 9th annual Honk Fest, bands from as far away as Seattle, Brooklyn and Montreal used their powers of music and spectacle to “HONK! for $15.”

These loud and colorful bands, like Seattle’s Chaotic Noise Marching Corps, took downtown Boston by storm as they used their talents to bring the national fight for a $15 minimum wage right to the doorsteps of low-paying fast-food restaurants and retail shops.

Friday’s event is the latest in a campaign where workers in Massachusetts are standing up and speaking out against the increasing income that has gripped this country.

Low wages don’t just affect one group of workers, but many across different industries and different communities. From large cities to small towns, extremely low wages are keeping workers and their families trapped in a cycle of poverty.

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King said “that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.”

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and recently, Boston has been a major beachhead in that fight. Last year, Boston fast-food workers joined the national campaign to raise standards at fast-food restaurants. On September 4, these workers escalated their campaign, participating in an act of civil disobedience in downtown Boston to send a clear message to fast-food companies: they are prepared to do whatever it takes to win $15 and a union.

Their movement has inspired other workers to stand up and fight for higher wages and better treatment on the job. This summer, Boston healthcare workers, airport workers, taxi drivers, adjunct professors and restaurant workers all stood together for the first time and joined the Fight for $15 at a rally in Copley.

The time has come to end wage inequality and change the economic landscape for all workers!

For more information and to get involved, go to lowpayisnotok.org and wageaction.org.

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NLRB Determines McDonald’s Controls Labor Practices at Franchisees

This week, fast-food workers got a major win in the fight for $15 an hour and a union. For years McDonald’s has alleged that it doesn’t have any control over the labor practices at its franchise restaurants.

Wrong!

On Tuesday, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board determined that McDonald’s is a joint employer that plays a critical role in employment decisions at all its restaurants.

In fact, the general counsel found that McDonald’s wields such extensive influence over the business operations of its franchisees that individual franchise operators have little autonomy in setting or controlling workplace conditions.IMG_7075

This determination carries widespread implications for the fast-food industry, and adds to extensive allegations made in class-action lawsuits filed earlier this year that the company is responsible for widespread wage theft.

Time and time again, McDonald’s has tried to sidestep workers’ rights, inventing a make-believe world in which responsibility for wages and working conditions falls squarely on the shoulder of franchisees.

In the wake of the general counsel’s findings, Boston fast-food workers, along with supporters, took to the streets on Wednesday and held a rally at a downtown McDonald’s, calling on the $5.6 billion company to stop hiding behind its franchisees, pay its workers $15 an hour and respect their right to form a union without retaliation.

Bottom line: McDonald’s is the employer. And they need to stop trying to pass the buck.

Learn how you can get involved at lowpayisnotok.org. And follow @15andunion on Twitter and Fight for $15 and a Union on Facebook.

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Boston Fast-Food Workers Head to National Convention to Escalate Fight for Better Wages

Whatever it takes. That’s what fast-food workers are vowing to do as the fight for $15 and the right to form a union goes into its next stage.

This weekend, Boston-area fast-food workers are heading to Chicago to join more than a thousand workers from across the country in planning the next steps of a campaign that has highlighted the vast economic inequality that is gripping the country.

During the convention workers will engage in leadership trainings, strategize about how to escalate the campaign and share their experiences leading the fight for better pay.

“I’m traveling to Chicago to meet with my fellow fast-food workers to plan the next stage of our campaign because the fast-food companies continue to ignore us,” said Kayla Sutton, a local Dunkin Donuts employee. “We work hard, and we’re trying to make it in this economy, but can’t simply can’t on the wages they pay us. I’m not just fighting for myself, but for my daughter as well.”

Since New York City fast-food workers first walked off their jobs in November 2012, the workers’ campaign has spread to every corner of the country – and the globe – and helped spur historic campaigns to raise the minimum wage.

Fast-food workers in Boston joined the national fight in August 2013, and since then, there have held strikes and protests throughout the city at multitude of fast-food locations including McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Popeye’s and KFC.

“It’s been almost a year since fast-food workers in Boston joined the national fight,” said Kyle King, a Burger King worker who’s been on the front lines since the beginning. “In that time, we’ve had strikes and protests. The movement in Boston, and the nation, has grown. And we’re not going away, not until fast-food companies pay us $15 an hour and let us form a union.”

Tapping into the national discussion about income disparity, fast-food workers’ calls for $15 have sparked initiatives to raise pay in cities and states across the country. Seattle recently passed a $15 minimum wage; San Francisco voters are expected to approve a $15 minimum wage, which is backed by the city’s business community; and here in Massachusetts, the legislature passed the highest statewide minimum wage in the country at $11 an hour.

Even as local and state governments respond to the Fight for $15 movement, the workers’ attention remains fixed on getting the $200 billion fast-food industry to raise wages and respect their right to form a union, without retaliation.

And they are not going to give up.

For more information, go to lowpayisnotok.org. Follow the action in Chicago this weekend, using the #fightfor15 hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

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Boston-area Workers Come Together for Economic Justice

On June 12, 2014, hundreds of workers and supporters took to the streets in Copley Square to demand higher wages and to protest the increasing wage inequity gripping Massachusetts as well as the entire country. Workers from a variety of industries, including fast food workers, taxi drivers, restaurant workers, airport workers, adjunct professors, homecare and healthcare employees, stood together in solidarity for economic justice and better workplace conditions.

From the fast-food worker strikes taking place across the country to demonstrations at Walmart shareholder meetings to Seattle implementing a $15 an hour minimum wage, the low wage crisis is capturing the nation’s attention.

The action in Boston’s Copley Square was just one of three demonstrations that took place across the state – there were also actions in Springfield and Worcester.

For more information, go to wageaction.org.

 

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The Faces of the Boston Fast Food Movement (VIDEO)

On August 29, 2013, fast food workers in Boston joined the national movement for better wages and a voice on the job. On May 15, 2014, that movement went global, with protests happening in 33 countries in addition to strikes that occurred in Boston and more than 150 U.S. cities. Hear from the workers that are fighting for $15 an hour and a union:

For more information, go to lowpayisnotok.org.

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Boston Fast Food Workers Continue Fight for $15 and a Union (VIDEO)

On May 15, fast-food workers from all across Boston took to the streets to continue the fight for better wages and the right to form a union. The May 15 strikes in Boston were part of an international day of action where strikes took place in more than 150 U.S. cities with additional protests happening in 33 countries.

Check out the action in Boston in the video below:

For more information, go to lowpayisnotok.org

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Fast Food Strikes Go Global

Boston Worker on StrikeThe fight to get fast-food workers higher wages and a voice on the job has gone worldwide! On Thursday, May 15, there were strikes were held in more than 150 U.S. cities and protests held in 33 countries around the globe.

From Los Angeles to Mumbai, fast-food workers stood together to demand better wages and treatment at the workplace.

In the Philippines, workers staged a flash mob inside a Manila McDonald’s during the breakfast rush. They sang and danced to “Let it Go,” from the movie Frozen, calling on McDonald’s to let go of low pay and let workers organize.

In Japan, where protests were held in nearly every prefecture, workers protested at a McDonald’s in downtown Tokyo, adopting the US workers’ fight for 15 by calling for the company to pay Japanese workers 1,500 Yen. Bystanders stopped and applauded protesters in Sapporo, a rare occurrence in Japan. Protesters shut down a McDonald’s in Brussels during the lunchtime rush.

Boston May 15 StrikeIn Boston, workers went on strike from 18 major fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Clergy, elected officials, and community supporters joined fast-food workers on the strike lines.

During the morning rush hour, fast-food workers, joined by more than 150 supporters, shut down the Burger King located at 1208 Dorchester Avenue in the neighborhood of Dorchester. The workers then held a banner drop next to a Dunkin’ Donuts on Morrissey Boulevard. The day culminated in nearly 300 people taking over the streets of downtown Boston and marching to the Burger King across from Park Street.

On Strike for $15 Banner

The fast-food industry can no longer afford to keep paying their workers starvation wages and stifling their rights at the workplace. Because on May 15, thousands of voices rose up. They rose up in French. They rose up in Portuguese. They rose up in English. They rose up in Hindi.

Despite the different languages, their message was the same: It’s time for a change in how all workers are treated.

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Robbed on the Job? Fast Food Worker Leads Teach In (VIDEO)

The statistics are startling  nearly 9 out of 10 fast food workers have experienced wage theft. If you’ve ever been served at a fast food restaurant, chances are that the person who served you has been robbed of some of their wages.

How does this happen? Brenda, a fast food worker in Boston, lead a teach in at a local KFC about wage theft. Check out the video below:

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Meet the 89 Percent: Survey Reveals Rampant Wage Theft Among Fast Food Workers

Fast food workers call on their employers to stop wage theft

Fast food workers call on their employers to stop wage theft at an action in Boston on March 18, 2014.

We’ve heard a lot about the 99% and the 1% over the last few years. Now, meet the 89%.

That’s how many fast-food workers reported dealing with wage theft on the job.

Earlier this week, a national poll of fast-food workers revealed that a significant majority of employees at corporations like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s face this problem on a daily basis.

This survey comes on the heels of revelations from two former McDonald’s managers about being forced to steal from workers using practices that include shaving time off of schedules, editing time sheets and not paying overtime.

Companies like McDonald’s and Burger King makes billions of dollars a year, yet pay their employees starvation wages that are barely enough to put food on the table. On top of that, they are engaging in practices that rob their employees out of their hard-earned money.

In addition to showing that nearly nine out of every 10 fast-food workers experience some form of wage theft, the poll shows:

  • 92 percent of Burger King workers, 84 percent of McDonald’s workers and 82 percent of Wendy’s workers are victims of wage theft;
  • 60 percent of fast-food workers have experienced three or more different types of wage theft;
  • 60 percent of fast-food workers have been required to perform tasks before clocking in or after clocking out;
  • 26 percent of fast-food workers have not always been paid time-and-a-half for overtime hours they worked.

Last month, McDonald’s workers in California, Michigan and New York took a stand and filed suit against the company for the wages that were owed them. All across the country, fast-food workers are joining the chorus to take a stand against these practices and fight for higher wages.

Think your boss might be stealing from you? Take the survey at Robbed On the Job to learn more.

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5th Graders Rally in Support of Fast-Food Workers

OHigher Wages, Stronger Communitiesn Sunday, fifth-grade students from the Boston Workmen’s Circle Jewish Cultural Sunday School became the newest champions in the fight for better wages and a voice on the job for fast-food workers.

Joined by parents and community supporters, and armed with signs, students marched from Franklin Park Zoo to hold a protest at the Burger King restaurant located in Dorchester’s Grove Hall. Taking charge of the bullhorn, they inspired the crowd with speeches and chants in support of hard-working fast-food workers.

With more than 250 cards collected from the community supporting workers, the group attempted to deliver them, only to be shut out by management. Not to be deterred, the students left the cards on Burger King’s doorstep.

Drawing on the history of Jewish immigrants who toiled in textile sweatshops, these students are demanding that Burger King, as well as other fast-food companies, offer livable wages, benefits, and workplace rights.

The demonstration is the latest part of a movement that started in late 2012, when 200 fast-food workers went on strike in New York City. This cause continues to spread across the nation, with workers in Boston and 59 other cities first striking on August 29. That number swelled to 100 cities on December 5 when thousands of workers across the country walked off the job.

IMG_9921With engaged heroes like this fifth-grade class, we can help bring about change for millions of fast-food workers across this nation.

Find out how at lowpayisnotok.org.

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Santa’s Holiday Message for Burger King: Don’t Be a Grinch to your Workers!

Don't be a Grinch to your workersWith the holidays quickly approaching, Santa took a break from his busy schedule to stop by the Burger King in Dorchester this morning. With a team of Santa’s Helpers in tow, he delivered more than 250 cards from members of the community to management asking them not retaliate against workers who are making their voices heard in the fight for a living wage.

The holidays are a time of joy, but many fast-food workers will struggle not only to put presents under the tree, but also to put food on the table for their families. This holiday season, we’re asking everyone to take a minute to think about the people whose hard work helps Burger King rake in millions of dollars in profits every year, while they struggle day in day out.

Santa and his helpers make a delivery for Burger KingNo one who work hard every day should live in poverty, but that’s the reality for many employees at Burger King and other fast-food restaurants. That’s why fast-food workers across the country are fighting for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

This is a time for giving, and we’re asking fast-food corporations to give these hard-working employees the wages, compassion, and respect they deserve. Help us make this a reality, because everyone deserves a happy holiday.

For more information, go to LowPayisNotOK.org

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Fast-Food Workers in Boston Join Nationwide Strike

Last week, the national fight to give fast-food workers a living wage and a voice on the job reached a higher pitch. On Thursday, December 5, the struggle to give these workers better working conditions culminated in strikes and rallies in more than 100 cities across the United States.

Fast-food companies, like Burger King and McDonald’s, are being put on notice: the efforts to keep their employees trapped in poverty will no longer be tolerated. From Providence to San Diego, workers and their supporters throughout the country are keeping up the call for a $15 an hour wage and the right to form a union.

In Boston, more than 100 fast-food workers, community, faith, labor and political leaders held a rally outside the Burger King located at 100 Washington Street in Dorchester.

“It’s not right that these companies rake in multi-million dollar profits, yet they pay their employees, like me, barely enough to scrape by” said Christopher Cobb, a Boston-area Burger King worker who is working to save for college while helping to support his family.

Fifteen dollars an hour is a fair wage. It’s a wage that will allow workers to keep a roof over their heads, and the heads of their families, and put food on the table. It will help put an end to heartbreaking stories about workers having to choose between putting clothes on their children’s backs and keeping the heat on.

By putting more money into the pockets of workers, we can get our economy moving again and strengthen our communities. For too long we have been subsidizing fast-food corporations – to the tune of $7 billion. While they rake in billion-dollar profits, they leave millions in poverty and burden hardworking taxpayers.

Last year, fast-food workers in New York said enough is enough. On August 29, thousands around country took to the streets, rallying around the spark they ignited. Last Thursday, fast-food companies were shown that workers aren’t going away – they’re going to keep fighting until the battle is won.

You can join the fight for higher wages. For more information, go to LowPayisNotOK.org

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McDonald’s Tells Its Workers to Apply for Public Assistance

McDonald’s likes to make you think that they are always looking for ways to help their workers. That’s why they created the handy McBudget tool, which helped workers “make ends meet” without factoring in things like food, medical costs, or heat — all while assuming that their employees were working a second job.

To add insult to injury, McDonald’s is now promoting a  1-800 “McResource Line” for workers who need help. Do they offer workers raises or health benefits when they call about their problems making ends meet? No such luck. Watch what happened when Nancy, a McDonald’s employee and mother of 2 in Chicago called the McResources hotline:


This comes just a week after researchers at Berkeley showed that fast-food companies’ low wages shift nearly $7 billion in public assistance a year onto taxpayers, with McDonald’s accounting for $1.2 billion of that hidden cost.

Designed for employees who need financial, housing, childcare or other help, McResources operators actually direct those who call to apply for public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid.

Rather than paying their workers a living wage, McDonald’s relies on taxpayers to pick up the slack.

That’s one of many reasons that fast food workers are joining together nation wide to raise awareness about the impact of low wages in the community. Join the nationwide fight for higher wages at LowPayisNotOK.org

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BNN: Study Measures Fast Food Sector Reliance on Wage Supports

Check out this great segment from BNN featuring our own Darrin Howell and Jeremy Thompson of the Economic Justice Research Hub talking about the impact of the low wages in the fast food industry:

Study Measures Fast Food Sector Reliance on Wage Supports from Chris Lovett on Vimeo.

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How the Fast Food Industry’s Low Wages Cost Massachusetts $173 Million a Year

Boston Fast Food Strike August 29People who work hard everyday shouldn’t have to depend on food stamps to get by. Yet for many who work at fast-food companies nationwide, it is a way of life.

This week, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley released a new report, Fast Food, Poverty Wages, that shows that fast-food jobs cost Americans nearly $7 billion every year. More than half of fast-food jobs pay so little that workers are on food stamps and other forms of public assistance.

“I would like for us to get a raise in order to live better and be able to support our families better,” Burger King worker Georgina Gutierrez told the Boston Globe. “To be working so hard and under so much pressure from management and to not earn something decent, is not easy.”

Question: how much do low-wage, no-benefit, fast-food jobs in Massachusetts cost taxpayers annually? Answer: $173 million.

Companies like McDonald’s and Burger King are making billions of dollars a year, yet they force workers to rely on taxpayers to get by. These corporations are draining money out of our communities, money that could be used to improve schools, invest in infrastructure and create jobs.

Jobs that pay workers so little that they are eligible for public assistance don’t help the economy–they hold it back. Fast food corporations like McDonalds and Burger King need to do the right thing and pay workers a living wage raise our pay so they can be independent.

In fact, fast-food companies rely on the fact that taxpayers will pick up the slack for their low wages. A companion report, Super-Sizing Public Costs, by the National Employment Law Project shows how much low-wage jobs cost the public at each of the 10 top fast-food corporations. McDonald’s topped the list, to the tune of $1.2 billion per year.

McDonald’s, which made $5.5 billion in profits last year, even tells employees that they should go apply for food stamps if they are having trouble getting by.

Our economy is stronger when consumers have more purchasing dollars in their pockets and don’t have to rely on help from the government. Boosting workers help boost our families, our communities and our Commonwealth and our nation.

Fast-food corporations should be putting money into workers’ pockets instead of draining money out of public programs to boost their profits.

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Help Raise Up Workers in Massachusetts

You have the opportunity to help change the economic landscape for more than a million workers across Massachusetts. All it takes is a clipboard and a pen.

Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community, labor and faith organizations, launched a signature gathering effort in September to get two initiatives on the 2014 ballot: earned sick time and an increased minimum wage.

What does this mean for families in Massachusetts?

It means that no worker will have to worry about losing their job if they have to stay home because they are sick or have to care for a sick loved one. It’s means helping to level the playing field by providing workers with higher wages that they can use to pay bills and keep a roof over their heads.

The success of these initiatives will have a ripple effect. It’s simple math: the more purchasing dollars people have, the more they will spend those dollars in their communities. That helps stimulate the local economy and strengthens the Commonwealth as a whole.

Earned sick time is not just about staying home with the flu. It’s about having the time to go to the dentist. It’s about having the time to prevent minor problems from becoming serious conditions. This is a basic right that all workers should have access to.

To date, we have collected more than 75,000 signatures. We still have a way’s to go to meet our 230,000-signature goal. You can help us get to the finish line. Click here to get involved with the campaign.

You can also stay connect with us online to find out the latest updates and events. Like the Raise Up Massachusetts page on Facebook and join the conversation on Twitter by following @RaiseUpMA and using the hashtag #RaiseUpMA.

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Boston Fast-Food Workers Strike for Higher Pay

Boston-Photo-8On Thursday, August 29, Boston fast-food workers made history as part of the  thousands to walk off their jobs in more than 50 cities as part of the largest-ever strike to hit the $200 billion fast-food industry. Fast-food workers went on strike in Boston for the first time, joining a growing fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation or unfair labor practices.

With support from community members and elected officials, workers held strikes at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Popeye’s and Dunkin’ Donuts across the Boston area. The day of protests culminated at the Boston Common, where U.S. Senator Ed Markey lent his support to the struggles of fast-food workers.

Boston-Photo-7

Fast food is a $200 billion a year industry and retail is a $4.7 trillion industry, yet many service workers across the country earn minimum wage or just above it and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and get healthcare for their children. Nationally, the median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew at fast-food restaurants is just $8.94 an hour.

The strike made headlines in Boston and across the country, including segments on NECN, WCVB and WDHD, in addition to articles in the Boston Globe, Boston Metro and Springfield Republican — among others.

Join the nationwide fight for higher wages at LowPayisNotOK.org

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Seniors, RIDE Users Arrested to Protest of Fare Hikes

On Wednesday morning, more than 50 seniors, people with disabilities, and supporters took the continuing fight against the RIDE’s fare increases to the doorstep of Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary (MassDOT) Richard Davey.

Taking place in front of the Massachusetts Transportation Building, the rally brought traffic on Stuart Street to halt, calling for Secretary Davey personally to address fare hikes that have made seniors, and those with disabilities, prisoners in their own homes.MBTA Ride Fare Policy

To highlight this, seniors filled a mock jail cell, remaining there until members of the Boston Police Department arrested them.

Organized by the Massachusetts Senior Action Committee, the confrontation comes in the wake of failure by the state legislature, and transportation officials, to address the inequitable fares in both the recently passed transportation finance bill and the state budget process – and in spite of the MBTA reporting record revenue generated from fare collection!

MSAC-RIDE Protest 1 - Aug 14 2013On July 1, 2012, the RIDE fares doubled from $2 to $4 one-way, compared to the average 23-percent rate increases for all other modes of MBTA transportation. Fares rose to $5, or 150 percent, for seniors using the RIDE in “premium territory.” This has led to use of the RIDE plummeting 19 percent – nearly twice the estimate MBTA officials originally presented – since the new fares were implemented.

Another way of looking at it: this equals 500,577 fewer trips between July 2012 and July 2013, or 1,371 fewer trips each day.

These fare hikes affect many of the state’s most vulnerable – many which rely on this mode of transportation to go to work, attend church, to shop, to visit family, or connect with vital community resources.

Send a message to Secretary Davey and the officials at MassDOT to liberate the RIDE and stop making our seniors and people with disabilities prisoners.

For more information, go to www.MassSeniorAction.org or call 617-284-1234.

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Raise Up Massachusetts Launches Campaign to Provide Earned Sick Time, Raise the Minimum Wage for Workers

IMG_7771On Wednesday, July 24, hundreds braved the hot and humid weather in Boston to kick off the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign. The rally, held at the Massachusetts state house, was just one of the many events that took place across the state, where workers, community leaders and supporters called for an earned sick time and an increase in the minimum wage.

Activists have pushed for these issues for years without any result, but working families just can’t afford to wait any longer. That’s why the Raise Up Massachusetts announced that if the legislature refuses to take action, they’re prepared to bring these two important issues before the voters on the November 2014 ballot.

In a dozen cities across the state, workers shared their stories and emphasized how much working families would benefit from these changes. Members of the community and elected officials also added their support to the fight, and pledged to continue fighting until earned sick time and a higher minimum wage become a reality.

Raise Up Massachusetts

No one should ever have to chose between their health and their job, but that decision is a daily reality for nearly a million hard-working people in Massachusetts. Every day, workers without earned sick time are at risk of losing their livelihood if they need to stay at home to take care of themselves or a sick loved one.

Earned sick time isn’t just good for workers and their families — it’s also good for business. Not only does it help prevent the spread of illness throughout the workplace, but it also boosts productivity and reduces employee turnover.

Earned sick time isn’t the only issue impacting the daily lives of working families, Massachusetts is also long overdue for an increase in the minimum wage. The last time we saw an increase in the minimum wage was in 2008, yet the cost of every day expenses like rent, groceries and gas are continuing to rise. At the current minimum wage, even full time workers find it impossible to make ends meet.

This isn’t going to be easy. Corporate CEOs have long benefited from this kind of exploitation, and they won’t want to pay their workers more without a fight. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit RaiseUpMA.org.

Check out photos from events across the state below:

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Hundreds Pack State House in Support of Minimum Wage

More than 750 Massachusetts residents descended on the State House last week to urge their legislators to raise the minimum wage. Workers, small business owners, economists, labor leaders, and community and faith leaders testified at a legislative hearing for a bill that would raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation, benefiting individuals, families, businesses, local communities and our entire economy.

The legislation (H. 1701/S. 878) would gradually raise the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour over 3 years and index it to inflation to maintain the wage’s purchasing power. The minimum wage in Massachusetts has not increased since January 2008. Since 1968, the real value of the minimum wage has fallen by 24 percent, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Check out the video below to see highlights from the testimony:

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