Restaurant industry wary of further possible minimum wage increase

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Restaurateurs and other small business owners are wary of a looming “threat” of a 2024 ballot question that could raise the state’s minimum wage beyond the $15 hourly rate that took effect in January.

Profitability for restaurants is down in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the biggest impacts stemming from inflation and labor costs, said Stephen Clark, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

Lifting the minimum wage by $1 per hour can translate into a $1,000 increase per employee, which sparks a cascading effect for all workers throughout the industry, Clark warned at a small business advocacy day Wednesday hosted by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, among other partners.

“Truthfully speaking, I don’t think the minimum wage fight is something that’s going to happen this year. I think if we look at the legislative calendar, it’s probably more of a conversation for 2024,” said Clark, as he implored small business owners gathered at the University of Massachusetts Club to discuss the issue with lawmakers at the State House later Wednesday during their lobbying efforts.

Clark invoked a potential 2024 ballot question filed by the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition. The network of organized labor and community groups is exploring an initiative petition whose goal it described as “building shared prosperity in the Commonwealth through higher minimum wages and fair and adequate taxation.”

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