How you can help Dorchester a lot

By Lew Finfer. Special to the Reporter

This fall you have a chance to help advance a measure that would help most people in Dorchester and another that would help 13,000 of them.

Really. Read on.

The first item is the collecting of voter signatures to qualify the Paid Family Medical Leave proposal for the ballot. Passage would enable people to get a substantial part of their pay for up to 26 weeks if they have a medically certified serious illness or injury.

It would also give people up to 16 weeks of pay if their spouse, children, grandchildren or grandparents have a medically certified serious illness or injury requiring your help in caring for them. It also covers maternity, paternity, adoption leave and leave before and after military deployment.

The second item is collecting signatures to place the proposal to raise the minimum wage over five years from the current $11 an hour up to $15 an hour. This would help an estimated 13,000 Dorchester residents who make less than $15 an hour now.

Who of us can’t imagine a possibility of themselves being seriously ill or an immediate family member being seriously ill and not being able to take substantial paid time off in these circumstances to help them? This proposal would set up a statewide insurance program costing workers $2 to $3 a week each and their employers the same.

Think of all the fast-food workers, retail workers, restaurant workers, and others who earn less than $15 an hour. The current minimum $11 an hour adds up to just $21,880 a year. No one should work hard full time and still be in poverty. No one. And if the minimum is raised, these low-wage workers will spend the money back in our economy which, in turn, will maintain and expand jobs.

When I think of low-wage earners who work hard and are underpaid, I think of Dorchester resident Kyle King, who has worked at Burger King downtown for 13 years and still makes $11 an hour. He’s a thoughtful, dedicated, and courteous person. It’s a big indignity when people like him work hard and are not paid fairly. Yet, the humble Kyle’s first reaction is to be thankful for the last campaign in 2013-2014 that raised the minimum from $8 to $11 an hour.

But, he’s out there organizing as part of the Fight for $15 campaign.

By helping these proposals get onto the ballot, you can help yourself and so many others in Dorchester. We are asking you to consider trying to collect 15 voter signatures between now and Nov. 18. We will send you the petitions and instructions on this if you would please email me at

Lew Finfer, a Dorchester resident, is co-director of the Dorchester-based Massachusetts Communities Action Network that is promoting the Raise UP MA Coalition campaign on these two issues.