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The Machinations of the Grand Bargain

Published:  July 5, 2018

Virtually all members of the Massachusetts business community are aware that new legislation was passed last week, which will have an enormous effect on most businesses. The new legislation, H.4640, was signed into law by Governor Baker on June 28, 2018. This law has been sold as a “Grand Bargain.” However, for members of the business community, it won’t feel much like a bargain.

For one, the new law will raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. The new law also creates comprehensive paid state family and medical leave. It probably feels like the business community received comparatively little in return. The gradual elimination of time-and-a-half on Sundays and a permanent sales tax holiday are nice, but seem paltry in comparison. However, when given a larger context, this compromise had a great deal of value in averting greater problems.

Without the compromise, several elements of this bill would have become ballot questions, which were overwhelmingly popular. Approximately 78% supported raising the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, and 82% of voters supported the paid family and medical leave ballot questions. Business associations would have likely spent millions of dollars combating the ballot questions without any guarantee that they would be successful. Also, the ballot questions would have instituted these changes in a more severe form and at a faster pace. If the ballot questions had been approved, the business community would not have received any concessions or mitigating provisions provided by the “Grand Bargain” bill. The “Grand Bargain” legislation lengthened the time frame for the gradual increase of the minimum wage, reduced the duration of leave entitlement and added an opt-out provision for employers with benefit programs that offer comparable or greater leave.

However, even receiving these concessions, it’s hard not to feel like the hits keep coming for the business community. Ban the Box. Medical Marijuana. Pay Equity. Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. Constantly evolving NLRB decisions. Each of these recent laws had significant impact on doing business in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts employers are constantly asked to change their business practices. The “Grand Bargain” is no exception. Luckily, these changes will be implemented over a few years, with the minimum wage increase will be rolled out gradually over five years (starting with a rise to $12.00 in January 1, 2019), and the paid family and medical leave goes into effect in January 2021.

If you have any questions regarding the proposed laws, or any other aspect of labor and employment law, please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.