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March 21, 2014

Retailers bracing for possible minimum wage hike

BOSTON — Hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers will get a pay raise this summer if the state’s lawmakers can find common ground on increasing the state’s minimum wage, a move business leaders warn will squeeze small businesses and prompt layoffs.

Yesterday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, introduced legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally from $8 to $9 per hour this July, $10 next year, and $10.50 by 2016.

DeLeo’s bill also proposes raising the minimum wage for tipped workers — mainly restaurant and hotel staff — from $2.63 to $3.75 an hour by 2016.

Tim Lamprey, the owner of Salisbury’s Harbor Gardens and a member of the Board of Directors of the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber hasn’t taken a position on the proposal to raise the minimum wage yet. However, he plans on bringing it up at the next directors meeting because he sees the issue as possibly having a dramatic effect on the availability of jobs for younger workers and the rising of prices for consumers.

“If you can normally afford to hire three kids at the current minimum wage, you might say, ‘Hmm, I might have to hire less than that now or maybe I’ll hire a more seasoned worker I don’t have to guide every step of the way,’” Lamprey said. “Then, if fast-food restaurants or the place you buy your coffee or groceries now has to pay a lot more for their workers, you might see an increase in the cost of your morning cup of coffee or your weekly groceries.

“I think when you’re speaking about raising the minimum wage, there are unintended consequences that legislators don’t consider,” Lamprey said.

Newburyport Chamber of Commerce president Ann Ormond said the Board of Directors is scheduled to take a vote today on its position on the minimum wage bills, while Amesbury Chamber of Commerce executive director Melissa Lachance said she had no comment on the proposal.

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