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Push for higher wages to take place in Mass. this week

A coalition of labor, religious and community groups is planning a weeklong drive for $15 an hour.

Groups demanding a $15 wage and more benefits from restaurants are planning a weeklong run of demonstrations in Massachusetts this week to press their cause.

Full-service restaurants, in particular, will be singled out on Tuesday. Advocates of cutting or eliminating the tip credit intend to gather in Boston and make their case to state legislators. 

The events are organized and coordinated by a coalition that includes Raise Up Massachusetts, a federation of labor unions, churches and community activism groups, and Poor People’s Campaign, a nationwide group devoted to fighting poverty and racism.

Among their joint causes is a push for $15 an hour as the state minimum wage. They’re also urging lawmakers to mandate paid medical and family leave from all employers.

Raise Up Massachusetts has already gathered enough signatures to put proposals for a $15 minimum wage and paid leave on the state ballot in the November elections. But lobbying by business groups has prompted Raise Up to intensify its pressure to raise the pay floor legislatively before voters take to the polls.

The group has explored the possibility of joining political forces with the state’s retailers. In exchange for the business group’s support for a gradual minimum wage hike and paid leave, Raise Up would support cutting the taxes of small businesses.

But Raise Up said last week that the effort had failed because it could not support the Retailers Association of Massachusetts on other measures.

The group also wants to eliminate the training wage that employers can pay teenagers under certain conditions, and preserve a state law that entitles employees to time-and-a-half pay when they work on Sunday.

Poor People’s Campaign, a group inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., is in the midst of a six-week national campaign to raise wages as a way of combating poverty. Among the events it has slated for Massachusetts this week are demonstrations under the banner “Everybody’s got the right to live.”

 The Massachusetts Restaurant Association is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the rally for a so-called living wage. It notes that a number of proposals for a $15-an-hour pay floor have been aired in a variety of ways.

It is prudent that we let that process play out and focus our attention on the other issues impacting the Commonwealth’s workforce, the group says on its website.

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