Massachusetts Ballot Initiatives to Aid Workers

A coalition of labor, religious and community groups is seeking volunteers to gather signatures on petitions that would let Massachusetts voters decide whether the state’s minimum wage should stay the same or increase, and whether workers should have the right to miss work when they’re sick. The group, Raise Up Massachusetts, filed the two proposed ballot questions with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office last month. It has the support of both the state’s U.S. senators. The group can be reached via www.MassUniting.org.

Massachusetts law requires ten voters to sign initiative petitions. Senator Elizabeth Warren is the lead petitioner for the minimum wage question. Senator Edward Markey is the lead petitioner for legislation that will provide earned sick time to all Massachusetts workers. Business owners, workers, labor leaders, community leaders, and clergy members also submitted their signatures with each question.

“It is essential that workers have job security when they need to take time off to deal with an illness,” Markey said. “Providing an earned sick-time policy for all workers, in addition to raising the state’s minimum wage, will benefit Massachusetts as a whole.”

One million people in the Massachusetts – almost one-third of all workers in the state – are at risk of losing their jobs, and the wages their families need, if they have to stay home to care for themselves or for a sick family member. Studies have shown that providing earned sick time also benefits businesses by reducing employee turnover and lost productivity, said Katy Gall of www.MassUniting.org.

“There have been days I’ve had to go to work sick just so I wouldn’t lose my job,” said Lisa Ive, a personal care attendant from the Massachusetts town of Randolph. “No one should be punished because they are sick, and earned sick time should be available to everyone. We’re asking the voters of Massachusetts to side with us and make this reality.”

“The current minimum wage just isn’t enough to make ends meet for working individuals and families in Massachusetts, and there are people, like me, who face an everyday struggle to pay their bills and put food on their table,” said Jussara Dossantos, a fast food worker from Boston.

The Attorney General must approve both questions for the ballot, at which time the Secretary of State will provide the petition forms, which must be signed by supporters by December 4. Raise Up Massachusetts is getting ready to collect 200,000 signatures to place these two measures before Massachusetts voters.

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