JAN. 28, 2016 • BY JON HURST

For many years now, RAM has asked our state leaders to reform costly and anti-competitive laws which hurt our local employers and benefit out of state and new technology competitors. The antiquated Massachusetts Blue Laws prevent higher sales, and make it far more costly to serve your customers, meaning less operating hours, slimmer margins, and higher prices. We asked the prior Governor to fix the discriminatory Sunday premium pay requirement, and didn’t get it. Last year, I served on the Baker Administration’s Economic Development Planning Council and specifically asked for this reform.

Today the Baker Administration filed their Economic Development bill without the requested retailer Blue Law reform, and even more surprising and disappointing was the fact that the online sellers—like Amazon—did get a clarification in the bill that they don’t need to adhere to the Blue Law requirements.

Millions of Massachusetts taxpayer dollars have been given to Amazon by the state to locate warehouses in the Commonwealth, and now Governor Baker has proposed to clarify that Amazon is not a retailer, and therefore not required under the Blue Laws to pay time and a half on Sundays. Not included was an equal reform or exemption for real Massachusetts retail employers on Main Street or in struggling malls. To say RAM is disappointed in the Baker Administration is an understatement.

On 58 important sales days a year (52 Sundays and 6 holidays)—adding up to 16% of annual retail sales days—retail employers, small and large , must pay time and a half pay under our Blue Laws. Only stores, not restaurants, not state government, not hospitals, not any other industry—only retailers are targeted by the costly requirement; and now the Governor is saying online sellers should be exempt from the law, but not stores. Only one other state in the nation requires stores to pay the Sunday and holiday premium pay—Rhode Island, which copied Massachusetts in their Blue Law reform 4 decades ago.

With mobile commerce, unfair application of the sales tax, state mandated labor costs affecting only those in state, our Main Streets are in jeopardy. It is frustrating that our leadership doesn’t recognize that. To give further government granted cost advantages to the online competition is simply unacceptable.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts asks Governor Baker, Secretary Jay Ash and the Legislature to move quickly to repeal the costly and discriminatory Blue Law premium pay mandate. Our leadership must make it one of their most important priorities to ensure that our Main Streets, our jobs and our small businesses are protected, promoted and preserved, rather than being put in further jeopardy by unfair government mandates.

What is good for Amazon under Massachusetts laws ought to be good for real retail employers.

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