Massachusetts State Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford) last week worked with the House of Representatives to pass a bill to reform the state's unemployment insurance system and raise the minimum wage.
The bill proposes a new minimum wage of $10.50 per hour and a new tipped wage of $3.75 per hour over the next three years, according to an announcement by Fernandes's office.
Neither wage is expected to be indexed to economic factors in the interest of providing employers with stability and accountability, according to the announcement.
The bill passed the House 125-24, and extends the state Maternity Leave Act to domestic workers and expands wage and hour law protections, as well as guaranteeing UI coverage.
The minimum was increase will be implemented according to the following timeline:
- $9 per hour, effective July 1, 2014
- $10 per hour, effective July 1, 2015
- $10.50 per hour, effective July 1, 2016
The tipped minimum wage increase will be implemented in accordance with the following timeline:
- $3 per hour, effective July 1, 2014
- $3.35 per hour, effective July 1, 2015
- $3.75 per hour, effective July 1, 2016
"It was important to me that we balanced this minimum wage increase initiative with an unemployment insurance package that gives tax relief to, and certainty in unemployment rates for businesses while preserving worker benefits," Fernandes said. "I am proud to join my colleagues in the House in voting for a comprehensive workforce reform package that gradually raises the minimum wage, which has not been increased in many years and has not kept up with many cost of living factors."
Meanwhile, reforms to unemployment insurance are meant to increase predictability for employers and close current loopholes. The bill comprises a rate freeze for 2014 and a three-year rate freeze to reflect the new wage base and rate table. The changes include:
- Adjusting the ratings table to lower the tax burden on most employers
- Increasing system accountability for public employees, including municipal and seasonal employees and retirees, which includes closing loopholes that enable school-based municipal employees, as well as retirees, to receive both pensions and UI benefits.