Springfield Republican: Businesses cautious, advocates pleased as Massachusetts minimum wage set to increase to $12.75 on Jan. 1, 2020

By Shira Schoenberg
Springfield Republican / MassLive, Dec 28, 2019

The Massachusetts minimum wage will increase from $12 to $12.75 an hour on Jan. 1, a step toward raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimates that 420,600 workers will get a raise under the new law, many of them working in food service and retail. ...

But some business owners say they want to pay their workers a living wage.

David Starr is founder and managing partner of Berkshire Natural in Northampton, which distributes healthy snacks to offices and has 12 employees. Starr said salaries for his employees start at $15 an hour for full-time workers and $13 an hour for part-time workers. His staff receive raises of 3% to 5% annually.

Starr said he has had to raise prices to keep up with the annual wage increases. But he thinks it is worth it. Starr said it took his company eight years to become profitable, but now that it is, he wants his employees to share in the profits. ... “They are a lot happier and lot more productive when they don’t have to worry about what their income is.”

Michael Kanter, co-owner of Cambridge Naturals, a natural food store with 32 employees and stores in Cambridge and Brighton, raised his company’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in December 2017. Kanter said his employees were excited, and he marketed it to attract new customers.

Kanter said he thinks a statewide increase in the minimum wage can help businesses if staff are happier, stay in a job longer and improve their customer service. He noted that living around Boston is expensive.

“We’re a culture and a country where people are really stressed in general right now,” Kanter said. “Whatever we can do to mitigate that stress by offering them a better financial future, better financial status, can make them better employees.” ...

According to the advocacy group Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which supports higher wages, 14 states will start 2020 by raising their minimum wage. Seven additional states are implementing annual cost-of-living increases. Of all those states, only California, Washington state and parts of New York will have minimum wages that are higher than $12.75 an hour. Another three states and Washington, D.C., have minimum wage increases scheduled for later in 2020. Washington, D.C., will raise its minimum wage to $15 on July 1.

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