Op-eds:

March 23, 2018
By

Paid family and medical leave and minimum wage in Massachusetts

By Local State Rep. Liz Malia

Today in Massachusetts, 1.2 million workers risk losing employment if they take time off work to care for a new child or to address a family medical emergency. Too many people are working every hour they can but still cannot get ahead, and a family emergency can quickly turn into a financial disaster.

The current federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allows certain workers to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave a year to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, a family member, or for the employee’s own medical condition. FMLA guarantees that you can return to your job at the end of a leave. It is a minimum standard, and many states have chosen to expand either the amount of leave available or the types of eligible employees.

In Massachusetts, the FMLA applies to private employers with 50 or more employees, public agencies, including local, state, and federal government agencies, and public or private elementary and secondary schools. Only 60 percent of Massachusetts employees are covered in these classes. That means that under current state and federal law, 40 percent of Massachusetts workers can only access one week of paid sick leave, perhaps 24 hours of small necessities leave and 8 weeks of unpaid parental leave, but have no other options to manage their own extended illness, or that of a family member. For many FMLA-eligible employees, finances are so tight that 12 weeks without pay isn’t survivable. That’s why it is so important to raise the minimum wage and to create a leave insurance program at the same time.

You may have a chance to vote on a $15 minimum wage raise and paid family and medical leave insurance program during the November 2018 election. The Raise Up MA coalition organized, educated, and collected the signatures to make these two ballot questions possible. The minimum wage question would raise the wage floor by $1 per year until workers earn $15 an hour in 2022. It would also raise the minimum wage tipped employees can earn by $1.30 per year until they earn $9 an hour. All minimum wage raises after 2022 would be linked to inflation.

The Paid Family and Medical Leave ballot question creates an insurance program for most Massachusetts workers that pays 90 percent of earnings for up to 16 weeks of leave when needed and up to 26 weeks of leave to recover from a worker’s own serious illness or injury. As with FMLA, this proposed ballot question guarantees the right to return to your job at the end of leave.

I believe such policy changes would do more than just benefit caretakers and their families. Businesses would also benefit because their employees would be healthier and more productive while higher wages would help to the decrease employee turnover. Reduction in worker turnover would make it easier for employers to recruit and retain workers, ultimately generating savings.

I say that you may have a chance to vote on these two family-friendly policies. The legislature can make these two changes to law before the end of April. If we do not, then petitioners must gather more signatures to finalize the questions’ appearance on the November ballot.

I fully support the ballot initiative process; however, I believe the legislature is a better forum for handling complex issues like medical leave insurance. We ought to do our best to ensure the full benefits of paid family leave and an increase in the minimum wage for all workers.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to realize these practical and important policies. We owe a debt of thanks to the determined advocates and members of Raise Up MA. The community organizers, faith group, and unions who formed Raise Up MA are fighting for vital policies for our workers and for an economy that works for everyone.

How summer jobs make a difference

By Mayor Martin Walsh

If you asked anyone working today, I bet they can remember their first summer job. It might have been flipping burgers, lifeguarding at the community pool, or helping kids as a camp counselor. Growing up, everyone in my neighborhood had a summer job — it meant independence, and extra money in your pocket.

I remember my first job — I was a doughnut finisher at the Dunkin Donuts in Andrew Square. The work wasn’t glamorous. I started early in the morning, before the store opened, getting doughnuts ready for sale. I got the store ready for the morning rush, unpacked incoming shipments, and decorated the doughnuts for sale. I wouldn’t call myself a baker, but I surprised myself with the new skills I learned.

Whenever I go to Dunkin Donuts now, I think back to the time I spent there as a teenager. A lot has changed since I worked there in the early 1980s. Technology has transformed the way we find jobs. But I know my first summer job is similar to other young people’s experiences today. Everyone’s career needs to start somewhere, and that’s where I got my start.

In many ways, my first job helped influence who I am today — it taught me the value of hard work, the importance of the basics like showing up on time and following through on your responsibilities, and the proud feeling that comes from earning your own money. It also made me realize how crucial summer jobs are for a young person’s personal growth.

That’s why as mayor, I am so supportive of summer jobs and other part-time jobs for Boston’s young people. These are positive experiences that every young person should have, especially as they navigate their teenage years and prepare to enter adulthood.          These jobs build confidence and work ethic, putting young people on a track to success.

With the importance of summer jobs in mind, I encourage all students in Boston to sign up for SuccessLink, an online tool from Boston Centers for Youth & Families, that enables Boston youth to register for summer jobs. Through SuccessLink, young people can register for the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program, get connected to resources and join civic engagement initiatives designed to empower youth. In 2017 alone, 3,015 young people were hired through the SuccessLink program. Visit the website at boston.gov/summerjobs. Just last weekend, we had over 1,000 young people attend a summer youth job and resource fair at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury — it was incredible to see such a strong turnout.

Through SuccessLink, we’re growing the opportunities available for our young people, and connecting them to high-quality summer jobs. We’ve established new partnerships with community organizations and worked with employers to recruit more young people. As SuccessLink continues this summer, we’re prepared to offer a record number of Boston students a chance at a high-quality summer job.

SuccessLink offers more than just a paycheck. By partnering students with meaningful jobs at community and nonprofit groups, we empower them to develop their skills and expertise. They have access to hands-on mentorship and guidance, as well as network opportunities that create lasting professional pathways to success.

One example is Alex, a sophomore at the Josiah Quincy Upper School. Last summer, Alex applied for SuccessLink and worked at the BCYF’s Youth Engagement & Employment office. He helped other teenagers obtain employment while also using the experience to develop his communication skills. Because of his experience through SuccessLink, Alex has the confidence and expertise to explore other exciting jobs this summer and in the years ahead.

Alex’s story, like the stories of so many other young people here in Boston, shows the power of summer jobs. Having job experience makes Boston’s youth excited for their future, and for finding and achieving their dream job someday. This promise of summer jobs is how we support our young residents, helping prepare them — our City’s future workforce — for success. I encourage all Boston teens to visit the SuccessLink portal on Boston.gov and apply for a summer job.

Whether it’s your first job or your fifth, I can promise you it’ll be an unforgettable summer experience. And hopefully, just like my time at Dunkin Donuts so many years ago, you will learn skills and make connections that will shape you for years to come.

Students can apply for summer jobs through SuccessLink online by visiting boston.gov/summerjobs. Registration is due by March 30.

Celebrating Women’s History Month in Boston

By Mayor Martin Walsh

It’s important to pause and celebrate the women who impact us every day. Those we interact with on a daily basis, and those women who came before us that have made positive changes in the workplace and our world. Making sure all women and girls have equal opportunity is not only an important issue to myself and my administration, it is a priority in the City of Boston.

When I was first sworn in as Mayor of Boston, I created the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement. This office is the first of its kind in the country and my goal in creating it was to have a dedicated department to provide a needed perspective on important issues. Additionally, I wanted to ensure that we are able to give voice to those perspectives by working to provide a seat for women at every decision-making table in City Hall. Since its establishment in 2014, the Office has worked on issues surrounding child care affordability, paid parental leave, the gender wage gap and much more.

One issue the Office of Women’s Advancement is targeting is the disproportional wage gap seen between genders and even amongst different groups of women. I am a strong proponent of Massachusetts’ new pay equity law, which will go into effect this July. Yet, knowing that we have had a federal pay equity law since 1963, but we still don’t have equal pay, I knew we had to do more. We partnered with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to be the first city to bring free salary negotiation workshops to 85,000 women over five years, training over 6,000 women thus far. These workshops have showed us that women are using the information they learned to start conversations around fair and equal pay with their family, colleagues, supervisors, and friends. This helps our workforce move away from the silence and secrecy around pay and closer to parity.

The Boston Women’s Workforce Council (BWWC), a public-private partnership between my administration and the Greater Boston business community, is a collaborative effort to close the gender gaps in wages and representation in our workforce. When employers sign on to the BWWC’s 100 Percent Talent Compact, they commit to identifying gaps that may exist within their company, taking actionable steps to close them using the BWWC network and resources, and submitting actual aggregate and anonymous wage data to measure the Greater Boston gender wage gap. Working with Boston University’s Hariri Institute for Computing as our data partner, we’re using a first-in-the-nation analysis to think differently about how to solve one of our nation’s most persistent issues.

In March, we will amplify the amazing contributions remarkable women have made throughout our history. But it’s crucial that we stay conscious of injustices that are still very much present around us and try to do more to strengthen the voice fighting for women’s rights and equality here and now. Those that we honor during Women’s History Month, would never want us to stop fighting for these critical changes.

Together, no matter your gender, let’s channel the strength and resilience these women have shown, even in times of great defeat and hardship. Let’s continue work to ensure our city is one of inclusiveness across all Boston neighborhoods and strive for a more equitable tomorrow.

 

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