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Minimum wage debate heats up in Connecticut

10/25/2018

Minimum wage debate heats up in Connecticut

With so many cities and states now considering or having already passed minimum wage increases, the number of places where the debate over doing the same is getting bigger all the time. This is particularly true in the Northeastern U.S., where many states already have wages well above the federal minimum. Now, Connecticut is making higher pay a central issue.

This is particularly an issue in the race for the state's governorship, as one candidate vocally supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and another has a far more laissez-faire attitude toward addressing it, saying the minimum should be decided by the free market and not the state or federal government, according to the CT Post. Currently, the Nutmeg State has a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, but some fear the government could repeal even that number, which is lower than neighboring Massachusetts and New York, and in line with Rhode Island's floor.

Currently, more than half of all Latinx workers in the state - 54 percent - earn less than $15 per hour, and the same is true of 41 percent of African-Americans, the report said. Moreover, women in Connecticut are 25 percent more likely than men to make less than $15.

Growing pressure
In recent months, a number of well-known companies have voluntarily raised their own minimum wages above and beyond what many states mandate, which some believe could put pressure on lawmakers in Connecticut and other parts of the country to follow suit, according to CT News Junkie. Earlier this year, a statewide poll found nearly 2 in 3 Connecticut residents supported a $15 minimum wage but the state legislature has not acted to consider such a change at this time.

"Any additional money in workers' and their families pockets is a positive step forward," Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier told the site. "You don't need a degree in economics to understand the more money in families' wallets the more they can purchase and that will drive the economy upward."

More support?
Meanwhile, as the governor's race becomes more focused on a minimum wage change, lower-level races seem to be following suit as well, according to the Norwich Bulletin. The general agreement - even among those at different ends of the political spectrum - is that in a state that is constantly competing for qualified workers with neighboring economic hubs like Eastern Massachusetts and New York City, higher pay entices younger people to stick around.

"Ninety percent of people making minimum wage are in their 20s; it's people cobbling together two or three jobs to make ends meet," state Sen. Mae Flexer said at a recent debate. "We have some of the poorest towns in the state here in the Northeast and most of our neighboring states already have a higher minimum wage."

When companies or entire states are trying to attract or retain more workers, higher pay is a must. The same is true for many businesses when it comes to better benefits packages, especially in today's low-unemployment job market.

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