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Landmark Equal Pay Bill Receives Hearing in Massachusetts

This is a monumental week for Massachusetts women and families. Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Equal Pay Bill held a hearing before the state’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

This Is No Ordinary Equal Pay Bill Read more »

The Massachusetts Buffer Zone Protected Me

I started volunteering at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts in 2011 and was hired in 2012. When I worked there, I would always have the same routine. Every morning, I would grab a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts for my fifteen-minute walk. I would talk to a friend on the phone, until I would turn the corner right before the health center. Read more »

Race to the Top: States Continue to Set New Standards with Minimum Wage Increases

Don’t Google “state pride tattoos.” There are just too many results; it’s overwhelming. But as my “research” proved, competition among states can manifest itself in some really silly ways. Every once in a while, though, that my-state-is-better-than-yours attitude is well earned.

Take, for example, the number of states vying to establish the country’s highest statewide minimum wage. More than once this year, we’ve read headlines that one state or another has climbed to the top – and it just keeps happening. In March, Connecticut was self-high-fiving during its reign. Earlier this month, Vermont snatched the title. And as of this week, Massachusetts is moving into first place.

The Bay State’s bill, which will raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017, received final lawmaker approval yesterday, and Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the legislation soon. Tipped workers will also see an increase in their minimum cash wage, which will rise from $2.63 to $3.75. Read more »

Today, Supreme Court Considers Law That Protects Abortion Clinic Employees and Patients

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an important case for protecting women’s access to reproductive health services. The case is McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law. The Massachusetts law simply regulates the conduct of the public by ensuring reproductive health care facilities have a 35-foot radius to keep their doors and driveways unobstructed for patient access. Read more »

More States and Localities Move to Raise the Minimum Wage as President Calls for a Nationwide Increase

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the holiday shopping season is officially in full swing. But while some of us retreat to the internet to avoid frenzied shoppers at the mall, the season is far more stressful for many of the workers restocking store shelves and serving meals in the food court (and not just because they have to deal with swarms of cranky customers). For millions of employees in retail, fast food, and other industries that pay poverty-level wages, the end of the year means hard work and higher expenses – without any chance of a holiday bonus.

As Paul Krugman points out in the New York Times this week, the inflation-adjusted wages of nonsupervisory workers in retail have fallen almost 30 percent over the past four decades. That drop parallels the declining value of the federal minimum wage, which is just $7.25 per hour today; if it had kept up with inflation since reaching its peak in 1968, it would be over $10.70 per hour by now. In another recent piece for the New York Times, Professor Arindrajit Dube notes that this “erosion of the minimum wage has been an important contributor to wage inequality, especially for women” (who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the U.S.); in fact, “the evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages.”

Fortunately, there’s movement on the minimum wage in a number of states and localities – and even some encouraging signs nationally. Today, in a major speech on economic mobility, President Obama renewed his call to raise the minimum wage. Recognizing the link between the low minimum wage and widening economic inequality, he described an increase as a key piece of an agenda to restore opportunity for all. Read more »

Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington Increase Investments in Early Child Care and Education

A recent National Women’s Law Center fact sheet showed that sixteen states had already increased funding for early learning programs this year and several more were considering increases. Three more states—Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington—have since finalized budgets that include notable new investments for early care and education.

In Massachusetts, the FY 2014 budget designated over $26 million in new funding for early care and education, including $15 million to reduce the waiting list for child care assistance for low-income children, and $11.5 million for a rate reserve that will help raise the salaries of early educators. It is the first budget since 2009 that seeks to restore funding that was cut during the economic recession. Read more »

When Will the Minimum Wage Go Up?

It's a fitting question to ask this week, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the landmark law that established the first federal minimum wage. And it's a particularly important question for women, who make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationwide.

The answer, though, depends a lot on where you live. A majority of states follow the federal minimum wage, which is not scheduled to rise even though it has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for almost four years — and for tipped workers in states that follow the federal standard, the minimum cash wage has been frozen at a shockingly low $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. But in states like Washington, Colorado, Ohio, and Vermont, the minimum wage will automatically rise in January 2014 to keep up with inflation, and minimum wage increases recently enacted in New YorkConnecticut, and Rhode Island will also begin to take effect in 2014. 

To make it easy for you to find out what’s happening with the minimum wage in your state, the National Women's Law Center just released this handy interactive map

Find out how the low minimum wage affects women in your state

You can click on any state to see its minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, along with the share of minimum wage workers who are women, the next scheduled increase in the minimum wage, and any recent action on the minimum wage in the state legislature.  Read more »

Several States Boost Early Care and Education Funding

A number of states have taken important steps forward this year to expand access to high-quality early learning programs, according to a new National Women's Law Center fact sheet. While some states' budgets are still being debated, at least sixteen have already increased funding for child care and early education, and at least another eight are considering proposals for additional funding. 

Progress was made in a wide spectrum of states, including both states already providing substantial support for early care and education as well as states that had not previously made significant investments in this area. Indiana and Mississippi, which had been among the ten states that did not fund prekindergarten programs, established new prekindergarten programs, with Indiana investing $2 million and Mississippi investing $3 million. Michigan increased funding for its existing prekindergarten program by $65 million (60 percent), which will be used to serve at least 10,000 more children. 

A few states acted to enable more families to receive help paying for child care. Maryland has reduced the number of children on the waiting list for child care assistance from over 17,000 in 2012 to just 76 a year later. North Dakota increased its income eligibility limit for child care assistance from 50 percent to 85 percent of state median income (the maximum allowed under federal law) and provided funding to raise reimbursement rates for child care providers and to support grants for child care facilities and other efforts to increase the supply and quality of care. 

However, the news is not all good. Two states significantly reduced families’ access to child care assistance, and two additional states are considering cuts to child care and early education programs. Read more »

"Have an Abortion and Ruin Your Life" and Other Dangerous Lies Recorded at a Cleveland Crisis Pregnancy Center

We’ve read the reports and we know the drill. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (“CPCs”) are known for providing women with misleading and deceptive information. Time and time again NARAL [PDF] and others [PDF] have documented these lies. But, it is one thing to read a report, and an entirely different thing to actually hear a counselor blatantly lie to a “client,” shaming her in the process. 

In a secretly recorded video released yesterday by the Crisis Project, pro-choice activist Katie Stack filmed a session she had at Cleveland's Womankind. The session started with “Kate” being asked for information such as her social security number and address. The counselor proceeded to provide blatantly false information about the morning-after pill, saying that it could “really harm” Kate and result in hemorrhaging. 

The pregnancy test is advertised as free, but is it really? While waiting for the results of Kate’s pregnancy test — the same type of urine test that can be performed at home with no medical expertise — the counselor flat out asked Kate: “Why do you have sex?” and told Kate that there has to be meaning behind intercourse. “You don’t have sex to make yourself feel good.” 

I don’t know about you, but the idea of sitting and discussing my personal sexual relationships with an older woman I just met doesn’t sound feel right. Rather than helping a vulnerable woman during a potentially emotional moment, these counselors are judgmental. Sure, no money was exchanged but this encounter comes at a cost. Read more »

Minimum Wage Increase Passed in Connecticut, but Not for Tipped Workers; California, Massachusetts Considering Stronger Measures

It’s the first week in June: temperatures are rising, the cicadas are swarming, and many state legislatures are wrapping up their 2013 sessions. This flurry of legislative activity has included several important steps forward on the minimum wage.

The biggest news comes from Connecticut, where last week the legislature passed – and the governor signed – a bill to increase the state minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 per hour by January 1, 2015. This compromise measure will give a much-needed raise to minimum wage workers in Connecticut, about six in ten of whom are women. An additional 75 cents per hour amounts to $1,500 a year for full-time work, bringing annual wages up from $16,500 to $18,000. That’s a meaningful boost, but still about $500 short of lifting a family of three above the poverty line, much less what is needed in a high-cost state like Connecticut.

And there is a catch: Connecticut’s new law actually reduces the percentage of the minimum wage that employers must pay to workers who receive tips. Today, tipped workers like restaurant servers are entitled to a minimum cash wage that is 69 percent of Connecticut’s full minimum wage ($5.69 per hour). In 2015, when the regular minimum wage is $9.00 instead of $8.25 per hour, tipped workers will be entitled to a minimum cash wage that is 63.2 percent of the full minimum wage ($5.69 per hour) – that is, they will get no raise at all. While most of Connecticut’s minimum wage workers who will get a raise are women, women are also a majority of the tipped workers who will suffer from this unfair exclusion. Read more »