State Senate approves $15 an hour minimum wage
HARTFORD — The Senate sent legislation to Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday that will increase the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour over 41⁄2 years.
The bill passed 21 to 14 along party lines.
Lamont is expected to sign the bill into law.
The bill will raise the minimum wage over 41⁄2 years and then index it to the employment cost index. The current minimum wage of $10.10 an hour will increase to $11 in October,
$12 on Sept. 1, 2020, $13 on Aug. 1,
2021, $14 on July 1, 2022, and then $15 on June 1, 2023.
The bill will also create a training wage for 16- and 17-year-olds, which will be 85 percent of the minimum wage for up to 90 days. After that the rate will go up to the minimum wage.
The Senate debate follows a marathon 14-hour debate in the House, which covered many of the issues. Instead of debating the merits of the legislation, senators spoke more broadly about what role the minimum wage has played in their own lives.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, talked about the sense of pride he had when he got his first paycheck from picking tobacco at a farm in Windsor when he was 14 years old.
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, talked about the sacrifices his mother made in order to provide for him.
“My mother never took a single vacation in the whole time that I knew her,” Winfield said. “She died because she literally worked herself to death.”
Winfield added: “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could not possibly stand here and look at the people of the state and say that’s OK.”
Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said her parents worked minimum wage when she was growing up. She credited the ability to move from a camper into an apartment on her mother’s third-shift minimum wage job at a food packing plant.
“There are so many people for whom this wage is going to make all the difference in the world, but frankly is also not enough,” Flexer said.
A $31,200 salary will be the total annual income for someone who works full-time making a $15 an hour minimum wage.
She said there are only a few people serving in the Senate and the House who truly understand what that reality is like. “Who really understands what it’s like to only have $5 left, or who truly understand what it’s like to have to decide whether to pay the electric bill or the heating bill,” Flexer said.
Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, a retired labor organizer, said she’s been fighting her whole life on behalf of workers trying to “get them closer to what would be a living wage.”
There was a recognition that $15 an hour isn’t a living wage in Connecticut. To afford a two-bedroom apartment in Connecticut, the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated a worker needs to make $24.90 an hour.
But for Republicans it was about whether businesses are going to stay in Connecticut or leave for another state because they can’t afford the increase in the minimum wage.
“This bill will affect the same people it’s trying to help,” Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Farifield, said.
At least two Republican senators mentioned Forum Plastics of Waterbury, which pays 153 employees minimum wage and has threatened to leave if the bill is signed into law.
“We want to stay, we don’t want to be forced out,” Dave Pelizzon, president of Squadron Capital, the holding company for Forum Plastics, said in a Yankee Institute news release. “But if you do raise the wage to $15 per hour, we will have no choice but to leave. And it’s very sad.”
Kissel said the timeframe of 11 months between increases is “too fast.”
“These are giant jumps,” he said. He said it would have been better to have the wage go up less dramatically because no one would have to lose their job as a result of this legislation.
“I wish it was less dramatic increases over a longer period of time,” Kissel said.
Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, who owns Flanders Fish Market, said business owners are not the bad guy.
“Small business creates 80 percent of the jobs in this country,” Formica said. “... That’s where the job creation is coming from and the pressures this assembly is placing on small business is making it difficult for small business to make the profits necessary so that they can continue to pay taxes, so they continue to employ people, so that they continue to invest in capital infrastructure.”