Posted May 17, 2019
Legislators in Connecticut reached a historic deal this week to raise wages for more than 330,000 workers earning the state’s current $10.10 minimum wage. With the bill headed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk, the Constitution State will become the second state in New England to adopt a plan to reach $15, after Massachusetts in 2018, and follows New Jersey, Illinois, and Maryland, which passed similar bills this year. With Connecticut, nearly a full third, or 30.6 percent, of the U.S. workforce is now on a path to a $15 minimum wage.
“NELP congratulates Connecticut for its remarkable achievement, the result of the tireless advocacy of workers who petitioned their representatives in Hartford for wages that allow them to support themselves and their loved ones in the face of some of the highest costs in the nation. We know that a $15 minimum wage is the bare minimum that workers need to make a living practically everywhere in the country,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
The legislation will cause the minimum wage to rise to $11.00 next October 1, followed by yearly increases until reaching $15.00 on October 15, 2023. For minimum wage workers, the 90 cent increase in October will translate to a $1,872 annual raise for full-time workers. Increases after reaching $15 will be tied to the Employment Cost Index, a commonly used measure of changes in costs comparable to the Consumer Price Index. Unfortunately, Connecticut legislators chose to decouple tipped workers’ wages from the full minimum wage, leaving tipped wages at the current levels of $6.38 an hour for waitstaff and $8.23 for bartenders. Increases will be limited to inflation.
“Connecticut workers will get a significant boost in pay that will ensure greater economic security and dignity. Local Connecticut businesses will thrive even more as workers have money in their pockets to spend on basic necessities and small luxuries, like eating out and buying clothes for their kids. Still, we must continue to fight so that no worker in Connecticut is left behind,” said Owens.
Raising the minimum wage increases consumer spending and so can boost demand for goods and services, keeping money circulating in the economy and creating a virtuous cycle that benefits workers, businesses, and communities.
Last year, a Federal Reserve Board report found that 40 percent of Americans didn’t have $400 to cover an unexpected expense, while large companies reap historic profits and tax breaks. Across the board, workers are responding vigorously to stagnating wages by demanding higher standards and organizing with unions. Just last month, Connecticut grocery workers made national news by going on an 11-day strike that saw 31,000 Stop & Shop workers walk out. Various leading politicians, including 2020 contenders, visited picket lines to support workers at the 240 stores affected by the strike. The workers and their union succeeded in ratifying a new contract that rejected corporate proposals to gut their healthcare and pensions benefits. Such successful actions suggest workers are increasingly recognizing their bargaining power and demanding a fair share of their contributions to successful companies.
The Fight for $15 campaign continues to gain momentum nationwide. Already in 2019, New Jersey, Illinois, and Maryland have adopted a plan to reach a $15 minimum wage. Since workers in New York first walked out of fast-food jobs in November 2012 to demand a $15 minimum wage and a union, more than 20 states and 40 cities and counties have raised their minimum wage, with raises amounting to more than $68 billion. The benefits for low-wage workers and their families from raising the minimum wage have been significant. In the face of broader economic trends that have led to stagnant and falling wages across the bottom of our economy, raising the minimum wage has reduced economic hardship, lifted workers out of poverty, and improved other life and health outcomes.
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. As a national intermediary and back-up resource for many minimum wage campaigns around the country, NELP was pleased to be able to support the work of the coalition that fought to raise the minimum wage in Connecticut. For more information about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.