Springfield Republican/MassLive: It's business vs. business in Massachusetts $15 minimum wage fight

By Shira Schoenberg
Springfield Republican/MassLive, Sept 20, 2017

Michael Kanter, the owner of Cambridge Naturals, a health and wellness store in Cambridge, raised his minimum wage to $15 an hour last December.

"Not only is it valuable for the people who will be getting that raise, but it's also valuable for our business," Kanter said. "It helps with employee retention, employee enthusiasm, customers get excited."

"Massachusetts living is very expensive, so if we want our employees to be able to survive and thrive in our own communities, we need to give them the wages that will allow them to do that," Kanter said.

Business owners have become the latest advocates for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Massachusetts, in a legislative fight that is pitting business against business. ...

A coalition of labor unions, liberal organizing groups, religious groups and others have been pushing for a bill in the state Legislature that would raise Massachusetts' minimum wage from $11 an hour to $15 an hour by 2021. It would also gradually eliminate the wage for tipped workers, which is currently $3.75 an hour, to require companies pay tipped workers $15 an hour. ...

Rachel Solem owns two Cambridge guesthouses and already raised the wages at one to a $15-an-hour minimum. "It's part of my marketing to my guests that I have staff who can stay working for us and making a life with us. There's not high turnover," Solem said.

Solem said she sees it as the right thing to do. But it also helps her business, since it reduces turnover and eliminates the need for workers to take multiple jobs to make ends meet. "When people are stressed out, they're not going to give you their best, most productive spirit," Solem said.

Laura Fisher, who owns a life insurance agency with branches in Burlington, Mansfield and Maine, said happy employees lead to happy customers. "If employees come first, customers are treated better, and people go for service over anything else," Fisher said.

Rob Everts, co-CEO of Equal Exchange, a fair trade chocolate, coffee and tea company in West Bridgewater, said the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. "We believe in basic fairness that people who work full time should be able to make enough to support their families," Everts said.

Everts said requiring all businesses to offer a $15 minimum wage levels the playing field among Massachusetts businesses. ...

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