All workers deserve a fair wage, regardless of age. I was troubled to read Katie Johnston’s article suggesting that a potential ballot initiative raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Massachusetts would have negative economic impacts, specifically for teen workers (“In $15 minimum wage, some see pain for teens,” Business, Dec. 26). This could not be further from the truth. Despite research to the contrary, and without citing data, the president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts declared that local employers are cutting back on hiring teens in response to recent small increases in the minimum wage. However, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, following two years of Massachusetts minimum wage increases, teen unemployment remains at its lowest rate in 18 years. As the article notes, the study also finds that many teen workers contribute to their family budget, since their parents are employed in low-wage jobs as well. Those very budgets will become further stretched if heads of household are passed over for younger, cheaper workers.
Make no mistake, speaking out against raising the minimum wage is not about protecting teen workers or protecting small business; rather, it is about corporate greed and propagating false divisions between teen and adult workers that only serve to deepen our current crisis of economic inequality. A $15 minimum wage by 2021 would be a historic victory for teen workers and for hard-working people across the Commonwealth.
Steven A. Tolman
President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO