Massachusetts lawmaker among those arrested at wage protest

Hundreds of people rallied and nearly three dozen were arrested on Tuesday during a protest held for a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, was among those taken into custody after a group of minimum wage earners, including fast-food workers, and their supporters sat down on a street in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Cambridge and blocked traffic as part of nationwide protests.

"I'm very proud of the brave workers for having the courage to stand up to billionaire corporations and to fight for what they deserve," Eldridge said in a statement released by his office.

Cambridge police said on Twitter the protest ended with 34 "pre-planned arrests," inferring the demonstrators had intended to be arrested. The group Raise Up Massachusetts, which organized the event, called it an act of civil disobedience.

The group, which also included airport and home care workers and drivers for the ride-hailing service Uber, later staged a rally at the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to boost Massachusetts' minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The state's hourly minimum wage is $10 and will be among the highest in the nation when it goes to $11 on Jan. 1, under the last of a three-step hike approved by the Legislature in 2014. But while appreciative of that increase, workers said it still wasn't enough to make ends meet.

"I'm a mother, and I'm working hard to ensure my family can celebrate the holidays and have food on the table," said Lazaro Monterrey, a wheelchair assistant earning $10.50 an hour at Logan International Airport. "I'm fighting for $15 an hour ... so that I will have respect on the job and a decent paycheck."

A bill that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next several years was being drafted but was expected to be filed before the start of the Legislature's next session in January. Activists also were considering whether to include a provision that would tie future increases to inflation.

Business groups are skeptical of further hikes in the minimum wage, arguing it would add new financial burdens for many employers and perhaps lead to job cuts.

Protests also were held Tuesday in several other cities around the U.S., and arrests were reported in New York and Detroit.