Family Leave & Minimum Wage: Critical Questions on the 2018 Ballot

Attorney General Maura Healey recently certified a proposal to include a question regarding paid family leave, as well as a $15 minimum wage question, on 2018 Massachusetts ballots. Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor unions, community organizations and religious groups, was a driving force in getting the questions on the ballot.

The family leave proposal would allow workers up to 16 weeks of leave to care for a newborn child, a newly-adopted child, or a child newly placed in foster care. It would also cover leave to care for a sick family member or to facilitate childcare needs arising from active duty military service. Covered workers would take home 90% of their weekly earnings, up to $1,000 weekly. Benefits would be paid through employer contributions to a new Family and Security Trust Fund administered by the state. Employers would be able to deduct 50% of their contributions from worker wages.

In 2014, the state legislature approved a gradual three-year increase in the minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2016 ($3.75 for tipped employees). In November of 2015, a ballot question was approved by Massachusetts voters providing paid time off up to 40 hours per year for employees who are sick or need to care for family members who are ill.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) responded to the proposals in a statement: “AIM opposes efforts to mandate a $15 per hour minimum wage and paid family leave. Both represent one-size-fits-all approaches that will irreparably harm the economy without solving the income issues they are meant to address.”

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that currently have family wage laws on the books, with New York’s family leave act set to take effect on January 1, 2018.