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Biz: Tie Wage Hike to Jobless Pay, Groups Say Insurance Reform Essential

Nov 26, 2013Boston Herald, Council in the News

By Donna Goodison
Boston Herald

Business groups indicated they are willing to back a more modest minimum wage hike than the state Senate wants, but insist on tying any increase to unemployment insurance reform.

“Neither one of these are going to go through on their own,” Massachusetts High Technology Council President Christopher Anderson said yesterday after meeting with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop), who also wants one bill that links the two.

Anderson said he expects a House bill reflecting that “balanced” strategy after last week’s Senate vote to hike the minimum wage to $11 an hour, from $8, by July 2016 and link future increases to inflation.

State Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) wants unemployment insurance reform handled in a separate bill next year.

MHTC survey respondents last week opposed the Senate’s standalone proposal by 78 percent, Anderson told lawmakers in a letter yesterday.
More than 67 percent support up to a $10 minimum wage if the inflation trigger is eliminated and the nation’s “second costliest” unemployment insurance is reformed by reducing the maximum benefit level to 26 weeks from 30 weeks and requiring a minimum of 20 weeks of employment in order to collect.

“Unemployment insurance is really a matter of persistent uncertainty and irritation for employers,” said Chris Geehern, spokesman for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which has 5,000 member employers. “Linking … reform to the minimum wage effectively balances the needs of workers and employers.”

AIM also wants a new system that would require employers who more frequently put workers into the unemployment system to pay higher rates.

The Senate’s proposed minimum wage hike “pushed by big labor” would halt small business hiring and put more teens out of work, Retailers Association of Massachusetts president Jon Hurst said.

“We’re already eighth-highest in the country,” Hurst said.

“The $9 range certainly wouldn’t put us out of step with Connecticut and New York — two major competitor states.”

The retailers group also wants a “discriminatory” law requiring retailers to pay time-and-a-half on Sundays repealed and new rules letting employers who hire teens for fewer than three months pay them 
50 cents below the minimum wage.

“The problem is when you bump up the minimum wage a certain amount … that will bump increases all the way up the ladder,” said Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, a supermarket and grocery trade group.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

Increasingly, the Massachusetts High Technology Council is stepping up to create, execute, and lead critical statewide competitiveness strategies. Fostering a vision for our innovation economy under the MassVision2050 banner, the Council solidifies its position as a thought leader providing valuable insights to navigate emerging technologies, facilitates long-term planning, and reinforces the Council's commitment to excellence and action in the evolving Massachusetts tech-driven economy.

To learn more, contact Council President Chris Anderson.