“We’re one health emergency away from losing everything and not being able to provide for your housing infrastructure with gas, lights, heat.”
At least 25 states are raising their minimum wage in the new year – including Massachusetts, where the minimum wage increases to $15 per hour.
It’s a rate that labor activists have been working toward for years – but with inflation now at record highs, activists say $15 an hour is simply not enough to keep up with the price of food and housing, in one of the most expensive states in the U.S.
Savina Martin, tri-chair of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, said too many people are working multiple jobs and barely meeting their basic needs.
“Everybody has a right to live,” said Martin, “and everybody has a right to thrive in this society.”
A report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition finds a worker in the Commonwealth needs to make nearly $38 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment plus utilities.
That wage jumps to more than $46 per hour in the greater Boston area.
The increase in Massachusett’s minimum wage is part of a so-called “grand bargain” former Gov. Charlie Baker made in 2018 to avoid a proposed sales-tax cut.
The minimum wage would slowly increase to $15 per hour by 2023, while also ensuring up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers.
Martin said the economy has changed in the past four years. And, while homelessness among unaccompanied adults has declined, homelessness among families in the Boston area has increased by 10% since 2021.
“We’re one health emergency away from losing everything and not being able to provide for your housing infrastructure with gas, lights, heat,” said Martin, “or we can just be one paycheck away from being homeless.”
Martin said the Poor People’s Campaign will continue to advocate for economic justice in the Commonwealth in the new year, and push legislation to increase affordable housing.
When we lift from the bottom, she said, everyone rises.
Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.