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Reilly urges increase in minimum wage

'Right thing to do,' he tells workers

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly joined the chorus of workers, unions, and lawmakers yesterday calling for the state to adopt the highest minimum wage in the nation.

Speaking to more than 100 workers and supporters of a proposal to increase the wage to $8.25 an hour and tie future increases to inflation, Reilly said he plans to urge his colleagues in the Legislature to adopt the hike, and further offered that as governor, he would ''sign this bill with pride."

''This is the right thing to do," Reilly told reporters following the press conference. ''I hope the Legislature will act and will act quickly on this."

Governor Mitt Romney has offered his support for tying the minimum wage to inflation in the past.

The issue has divided Beacon Hill, with the Democrat-controlled Joint Labor and Workforce Development Committee last week advancing a plan to increase the minimum wage by $1 over the next two years. Senate Democrats on the committee said they'd fight for a larger increase. Small business representatives oppose the proposal, saying it will force many employers to reduce their payrolls or increase prices to pay for the higher wages.

Also appearing yesterday was Arnold Hiatt, former chief executive of Stride-Rite Corp., who said that his company remained profitable even as it paid higher than average wages. ''As someone who's run a large company in Massachusetts for many years, our success in no small measure was due to having a very productive work force," Hiatt said in a statement.

''We are going to make this a labor vote," said AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes, adding that he is putting lawmakers on notice that they ought to amend the committee bill during floor debate.

The state's minimum wage, last adjusted in 2001, is $6.75 an hour; the federal government has set a $5.15 minimum wage. Supporters of raising it to $8.25 an hour say it is needed because Massachusetts has a high cost of living, expensive healthcare, and higher utility costs than other states.

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