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Is $16,640 Per Year A Living Wage?

Old cash register. (seanmcmenemy/Flickr)

Old cash register. (seanmcmenemy/Flickr)

Senate President Therese Murray told a group of business leaders this morning to reconsider what passes for a living wage in the state.

Speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, she pointed out that other nearby states have raised their own minimum wages. In the Bay State, the minimum wage has been $8 per hour since 2008. That amounts to a yearly salary of around $16,640. Meanwhile, a recent report found that 60 percent of Massachusetts residents live paycheck to paycheck.

But business leaders say the realities of minimum wage work aren’t quite so black and white, and that raising the basement salary could impede more hiring.

We’ll dig in to both sides of the debate on the state’s minimum wage law.


Therese Murray, president of the state Senate

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts


WBUR: “In a breakfast speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Plymouth Democrat noted that lawmakers in Maine recently approved a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour by 2016, adjusting it annually for inflation after that. The bill has yet to be signed into law.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Oberman/100003504719230 Joe Oberman

    Wealth Inequality in America…




    The current economy is looking much better for the wealthy than the lower middle & poor class of workers, who are barely making headway. Especially, when so many states are in debt and our federal government can’t even budget the U.S. finances.

    Heaven forbid the lower middle and poor class if they are late making their bill payments for electricity, home heating oil or natural gas, water, auto insurance, rent/mortgage, basic cable TV/internet/telephone services, etc.  THEY are being nickel and dime to death withweekly food and gasoline increases.  THEY have $200 dollars less each month of income, something the upper middle & wealthy class of people could easily sneeze away and not even have effect their income!

    The Republican controlled Congress is forcing ALL state governors to create new sources of tax revenue which will replace federal funding to their state(s).

    The Governors meeting came away with a new TAX to fund their states…The state(s) WILL enact taxes on ALL Internet online sales.

    The wealthy rich purchase their jewelry, handbags, cameras, computers, furniture, cars… just about everything considered a luxury item costing $$$ big bucks, including liquor & wine. This is why the states have lost billions in tax revenue.

    The wealthy make most, if not all their expensive purchases online and circumvent
    state sales taxes!

    BILLIONS of dollars in lost sales tax are not collected due to an Internet sales tax exemption. The wealthy upper middle class and rich have avoided paying taxes for years, they have created the weakest economy ever. Because “We the People” allow this!

    It is the poor and lower middle class who are paying the brunt of sales taxes from their local retail stores since the poor and lower middle class can’t afford to travel too far or use internet services, many of them have to walk to their town libraries just to use internet services. Lower middle class and poor people lack funds to purchase $$$ expensive items online via the Internet. Therefore, they spend their money at retailers close to home.

    The BIGGEST problem is:  State politicians are enjoying their Internet online purchases too and they currently don’t want to correct this loophole which benefits most, if not all of them.

    If federal politicians can vote (both parties) to infringe on the 2nd Amendment, then they can all vote to tax internet commerce… this DOES NOT infringe on commerce as it is written within the US Constitution.

    And, this new Internet Tax source could very well pay for many things…
    mental health, infrastructure, law enforcement, teachers and even pay off the  state debt.

  • TonyLN

    There needs to be 3 different minimum wages.

    Under 18 — $7 per hourNo GED/HD — $10 per hour
    GED/HD — $12 per hour

    A high school kid working at McDonald’s doesn’t need to make $10 an hour… There needs to be good motivation to finish high school or go back and get your GED. But really a person needs to be making at least $24K a year to survive. Everyone should be able to make enough money that if they spend it wisely they can own a home & a car — put food on their table — and have a little left over for fun.

    Minimum wage should also be enough that if you are working you don’t need state assistance.

  • Hussar

    $16K is not a living wage.  However, working only 40  hours at $8.00 an hour is not how to support yourself, your family, or get ahead.  I know of no six figure employee or business owner that works only 40 hours a week (with the exception of some government employees who show up for 40 hours a week).  Most wealthy  people in the dreaded private sector work in excess of 60 hours a week and are on call and standby 24/7.  (N.B., I consider anyone making more than $100K wealthy for discussion purporses here.)  Therefore $16K at 40 hours a week is not a living wage. 

     However, $32K at 80 hours is a reasonable wage.  If you are married and your spouse makes $16K, and you  work two jobs that is $48K a year–not bad, but not good.   Add on to that $48K all the benfits and freebies that the working poor are elibible to obtain through the government extorted largesse of the wealthy, and I suggest that you could support a family of four on those wages and with some benefits coming  from government and charities.

    • Pengkin299

       some of us who work these low paying jobs that are scraping by don’t like to accept assistance from the government or the bs that you have to do to obtain help, which telling you from experience of making around 32 to 34 k a year without benefits, a masters degree, a wife who’s pregnant and has insurance but insurance that doesn’t cover pregnancy….it is a little much

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001788934188 Gerald Daines

      “However, $32K at 80 hours is a reasonable wage.”

      It may be reasonable, and a living wage, but how can you call that “living”?

    • WelshDave

      What a load of gibberish.  I earn a decent wage over 50k (but as a salaried employee I do not qualify for overtime even though I put in 50/60 hours a week) but still pretty much live paycheck to paycheck.  The reason?  Have you seen how much child daycare costs? During the summer months it can be in excess of $900 per month minimum, and I know people who pay close to double that.  The benefits you speak of amount to a $600 credit towards childcare, a pittance.  How can a single parent work 80 hours a week and still spend any quality time with the kids?  I have it better than most, but in all honesty a minimum wage of at least $15/hour is not unreasonable given the distance and time people are expected to get to work and with the cost of living, gas prices doubling or tripling in the past decade the minimum wage has to keep up.

    • Pgchambers

      1. No hourly job is going to be allowed 80 hours due to overtime.2. Good luck finding two full time hourly jobs that are consistently not going to overlap hour over the long term for every minimum wage employee out there.

      Totally unrealistic.

    • J__o__h__n

      $32,000 at 80 hours is not a living wage.  A family making $48,000 is unlikely to qualify for many government programs. 

    • J__o__h__n

      And someone working a full time job (40 hours NOT 80) should be paid enough to not rely on the government or charity.

  • Irishlassie71

    It is certainly more than most of our seniors are receiving.  The reason we have our freedoms, industries and standard of living are a direct result of the sacrifices our seniors made but we continue to turn our backs on them.  They gave up so much for all of us.  Where is the outrage and concern for them.

  • vhpeddler

    Business leaders always complain that it will hurt hiring. Corporate profits are at record levels, Inflation is on a runaway course( even though the government says their is none, must be they don’t shop and disparity widens and wages have been frozen for a decade . Stop crying , no one likes crybabies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Robertson/612787441 Eric Robertson

    If you live in a densely populated area  like NYC, no.

    If you live in a sparsely populated area like West Texas, yes.

    I think a lot of voters and leaders forget that certain laws, and overall legal structure, is suited often times for one of the population densities but not the other.

    Ex. In the wilderness where you dont have patrolling police, you need a gun to defend yourself from wildlife. There we need lots of legal Leeway.
    Ex2. In a city subway, if you carried a rifle over your shoulder, you will cause lots of problems.  There we need lots of legal Structure.

    Thus, I strongly encourage our leaders to localize their laws to consider the practicality of the location the law is applied to.

    Nothing more pointless then one demographic attempting to make another demographic play by their rules and expecting them to relate.  We just aren’t that  cross-tribal empathetic.

  • Fdas

    I don’t think that the minimum wage was created to be a living wage. 

  • taxedmore

    You have to look at the perceived value of the job.  If somebody is taking items out of a box and putting them on a shelf – is that really worth more than $7.25 per hour? 
    How much training, education and effort is required to sweep a floor?  What is the perceived value of sweeping a floor?  These are entry level jobs and the people who have them should be looking to advance themselves, not wait for somebody to vote them a raise.

  • john

     Minimum wage is entry level, always has been and should be.   If you do not develop skills or have work value then you stay at that wage, if you develop skills and job value then your wage will increase as your value increases to your employer or the market.  As a business owner and employer I want to pay my employees as much as our work can afford to pay.  I see the major problem as government interference with regulations that make  business less profitable for the risks taken by owners.  As a side note I do believe that CEO salaries of large corporations are insane as I also feel that government salaries are also out of line with their performance  value.  Bring back personal responsibility for ones living expenses and stop rewarding those who do not contribute to society and our economy.

  • Dawn Blush

    Most people making minimum wage are young and they either live with their parents or roommates therefore their cost of living is drastically reduced. There are also quite a few elderly people who are supplementing their retirement money with these types of jobs.
    My grandmother, now deceased, had a comfortable amount of money for retirement yet she worked in retail as a clerk after retirement. She didn’t have to she just wanted to feel active and productive and be able to socialize. 
    Minimum wage is not meant to be a “living wage”. These jobs are for people who are unskilled or, like my grandmother, just want an easy job to pass the time and give them a few extra bucks.

  • J__o__h__n

    He wants the discussion in DC so it won’t happen.

  • J__o__h__n

    Why does the state house give the cleaning contract to a firm that doesn’t pay enough or offer benefits? 

  • Sharlyne1

    I completely agree with Therese Murray. It’s high time to discuss living wages and how they keep up with the cost of living. Today the cost of living exponentially outpaces earned wages. It’s time for businesses, both public and private to get real. For example, the T increased fares last summer by 23%. Most people only get a 2-3% raise and that’s if they’re lucky. How can you expect to live when your salary doesn’t keep up with expenses? 

  • Kiyah

    I’d like to know where in Mass. you could afford to live for $16k a year or even $32k.  Part of the minimum wage problem is that many employers that have minimum wage workers don’t hire many full-time workers at that rate.  Most of them work part-time so the employer doesn’t have to provide health insurance and other benefits.

    • ABETutor

      You’d be amazed that the highest quality, most profitable establishments hire at minimum wage or below, and do not withhold federal income taxes – preferring to give the minimum salary to the unskilled workers, who then become permanent members of an underclass because they can’t afford to pay the IRS  should they try to file.

  • Francis Farinacci

    A few years ago I was watching a PBS story. The question was asked to people stopping and being asked how much you need to make to pay your rent, food, utilities and other bills? Most People said between $10 and $12 an hour.

  • chatter468

    Considering the high percentage of Americans who make $8/hour or lower, they are not strictly entry-level positions or starter -job wages.They are wages that people are expected to live on and,in some cases raise a family ,advance your skills.prepare for children’s college.save for retirement,buy good Insurance policies,have a good safety cushion etc,etc.
    Working 60-80 hours/week does not allow for personal leisure or time to spend with family.
    The 40 hour week laws were passed to allow people some time freedom.

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