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In photo at left, Kathleen Meltsakos, an MTA education support professional, pays a visit to state
Representative Leonard Mirra (R-West Newbury) in support of the Fight for $15. At right, ESPs
Deborah Young, left, and Sharon Solano testify in favor of House Bill 2365 and Senate Bill 1004.
Photos by Scott McLennan
E ducators joined other workers, business owners, economists, students and community activists at the State House on Sept. 19
to support legislation that would boost the state’s
minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021.
“I am making the same amount of money now as
I did in 1985 when I was a dental assistant,” Malden
paraeducator Sharon Solano told the Legislature’s
Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce
Development. “We need compensation aligned with
Solano and Worcester paraeducator Deborah
Young both testified before the committee. They
were supported by fellow education support
professionals who came from around the state to
attend the hearing.
Many MTA members also visited legislators to
seek their support for House Bill 2365 and Senate
Bill 1004, both of which are backed by the Raise Up
Massachusetts coalition, of which the association is
The ESPs explained how their jobs have changed
over the years. “We are co-teaching,” Solano said.
“We’re not just tying shoes and wiping noses.”
MTA President Barbara Madeloni also testified,
explaining that the bills are significant in their
inclusion of public employees in a state minimum
wage increase. The last Massachusetts minimum
wage hike — to $11 per hour — did not include
Madeloni pointed out that there are more than
30 school districts with salary steps below $11 per
hour and more than 100 districts in which some
employees make less than $15 per hour. “The
educators working most closely with the neediest
students are in some cases not making a living wage.
That is an outrage,” Madeloni said.
Educators also see firsthand the impact that
economic insecurity has on students, which is key to
why the MTA strongly supports measures to improve
wages for families now struggling with poverty.
Young, who works with special needs students
in the Worcester Public Schools, told the panel that
she loves her job and is dedicated to her students.
She relayed the financial hardships she faced when
an illness forced her to take a leave of absence,
Raise Up Massachusetts — which is made up
of numerous community, labor and faith groups —
is tackling the minimum wage effort not only with
legislation, but also with a ballot initiative in case the
proposal stalls or fails in the Legislature.
According to state Representative Dan
Donahue (D-Worcester), the lead sponsor of H.
2365, approximately 932,000 low-wage workers in
Massachusetts would benefit from an increase in the
minimum wage to $15.
Several business groups, including Business for
a Fair Minimum Wage and the Alliance for Business
Leadership, dismissed the argument that increasing the
minimum wage would kill job growth in the state.
A panel of economists testified along the same
lines, stating that a growing economy such as the
one in Massachusetts supports an increase in the
Anabel Santiago of Raise Up told the legislators
that increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour
by 2021 is “not an unsubstantiated request.”
Rather, Santiago said, “It is a necessity.”