BOSTON — The House voted to raise the state’s minimum-wage bill on Wednesday from $8 to $10.50, with the majority of Greater Lowell representatives voting in favor.
The 123-24 vote would also freeze unemployment insurance, raise the tipped minimum wage and protect the rights of domestic workers.
State Reps. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, and Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, voted against the bill, while the remaining Lowell-area representatives voted for the increase.
The law would move the minimum wage in stages over the next three years. The last increase came in 2008.
It would also raise the tipped wage from $2.63 per hour to $3.75 over the same three-year period. The last tipped wage increase was in 1999.
“At its core, a minimum wage bill is about fairness,” said state Rep. Tom Conroy, the chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce development, as debate on the bill began late Wednesday afternoon.
“Income inequality in Massachusetts has grown at a faster pace than almost any other state in our union,” he said.
Conroy said that if the minimum wage had increased at the same rate as CEO compensation it would be $62.36 per hour.
“There is ample evidence that raising the minimum wage is actually good for our economy,” Conroy said, noting minimum wage earners spend their paychecks on household essentials.
The bill would also freeze the unemployment insurance rate at the first $14,000 of each employee’s wages for 2014 and $15,000 for 2015 through 2017.
The bill gives a “bill of rights” to provide basic workplace rights and legal protections to domestic workers such as nannies, caregivers and housekeepers.
“Too often we have heard that employers are taking advantage of these caretakers,” Conroy said.
The bill includes two-weeks severance for live-in workers, protections against sexual harassment and an expansion of the Maternity Leave Act to cover domestic workers.
Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, said she was proud to support the bill.
“Increasing the minimum wage is the most effective way to combat poverty for families, especially families headed by single women,” Benson said in an email statement. “This is a moral, societal and economic issue for the commonwealth and the country.”
Reps. Lyons and Lombardo disagreed.
“Raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy,” Lombardo said in a phone interview, citing a study from the conservative lobbyist group, National Federation of Independent Business, which said raising the minimum wage would cost the state 50,000 jobs.
While Lombardo did not support raising the minimum wage, he said he’s supported freezing the unemployment insurance.
“It’s disappointing that they didn’t divide the minimum wage and unemployment insurance bills,” Lombardo said. “Typical Beacon Hill putting something good in with something bad.”
Lyons said in a phone interview that he voted against the bill because it’s bad for small businesses and will hurt workers.
During the House debate, Lyons offered an amendment to study the economic impact of the workforce reform bill. The amendment was later rejected.
“This will have a dramatic effect on small businesses, families and teenaged workers. We all know people who run small businesses and they get up every day and try to provide for their families,” Lyons said during the debate. “What we are doing is taxing that small business owner.”
The minimum-wage increase and unemployment-insurance freeze was tacked onto domestic workers bill when the Senate denied a House request to file the original bill past a deadline set by legislative rules.
The Senate passed its version of the minimum-wage bill last November, which would raise minimum wage to $11 per hour and index the wage to inflation. It also passed an unemployment insurance bill in February.
The House bill will now go to the Senate, which will need to debate the bill and revote on these issues.
“Even though we already voted, we may have to take up those issues again on the Senate floor,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton.
Last week Senate President Therese Murray said she was worried the Senate would not be able to pass the bill in time, but Eldridge said he expects the bill will be taken up the bill before the session ends.
If the bill fails to win passage, Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition supporting a wage increase could add it as a ballot initiative in the November elections.
The ballot petition would raise minimum wage to $10.50 per hour and the tipped wage to $6.30 per hour by 2016. It would also index these rates to inflation.
“It’s important to keep in mind that this is a piece of legislation that is important to hundreds of thousands of workers,” Eldridge said