Boston, MA – On Thursday, June 28th, Governor Baker officially signed a comprehensive bill known as the “Grand Bargain” in an effort to preemptively resolve three questions that would have appeared on the November ballot. These questions were brought forth by an assortment of MA workers’ and business groups, who were asking for a series of changes.
They requested a $15/hour minimum wage for non-tipped employees and $9/hour for tipped employees by 2022, the allowance of 26 weeks of paid medical leave and 16 weeks of paid family leave for workers, a decrease in the MA sales tax from 6.25% to 5%, and the creation of an annual sales tax holiday in August. The Grand Bargain attempts to create compromises for the various issues brought forth in the former proposed ballot questions. Baker affirms that this deal contains "a better set of policies than what the ballot questions represented.”
The bill has several components that address minimum wage raises and employee payment changes. The non-tipped minimum wage will be raised from $11 to $15 by 2023, while the tipped minimum wage will be raised from $3.75 to $6.75 in the same time frame. In a possible attempt to compromise with the business community on these changes, Gov. Baker also is removing the legislation which mandates time-and-half pay to workers on Sundays and holidays. However, the new laws state that employees must not be obligated to work on these days, nor can they be discriminated against for choosing not to do so.
In terms of paid medical and family leave, all employed Mass inhabitants will be allowed 20 weeks of paid medical leave and 12 weeks of paid family leave by 2021. To compensate for this extra leave, there will also be a 0.63% payroll tax increase starting in July of 2019. The Grand Bargain will not lower the state sales tax; however, it will institute an annual sales tax holiday weekend in August. The weekend will be announced each year by mid-June, and there are still a few products that will be taxable throughout its duration.
With the Grand Bargain now in place, the remaining ballot questions will address issues such as nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, and public gender-identity-based discrimination.