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Local labor unions react to Amazon raising minimum wage

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WINDSOR — After coming under fire from labor unions, online retail giant Amazon – and by extension, Whole Foods, is raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The raise even applies to part-time, temp and seasonal workers.

So how will this may impact the pay equity landscape here in Connecticut?

Beginning in November, each of Amazon’s 200,000 employees will make at least $15 an hour. The online retail behemoth is the most recent big fish to boost the bottom of it's pay scale. Walmart did it this year -- Target did it last year.

FOX61 talked to both the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and CBIA (Connecticut Business & Industry Association).

The two labor unions have stood on opposite sides of the fight for $15.

On this day they partially agree.

“They make so much money they can raise the wages higher, it's a good beginning,” said SEIU President David Pickus.

“I think this is a great idea. When a private company decides to pay the highest possible wages to their employees on their own, I think that's fantastic,” said Vice President of Government Affairs for CBIA, Eric Gjede.

But the CBIA is opposed to raising the state minimum wage. Gjede said Amazon's move shows the market can dictate and businesses will do it on their own.

“It could level the playing field but it could also force businesses who simply can't afford to pay that - out of business,” he said.

But SEIU, who led the fight for $15 in Connecticut, said the pay equity disparity is just too big.

“It's only difficult if you're the only one doing it and everyone else is able to pay $10. But if everybody has to pay $15 then there is no competitive disadvantage,” explained Pickus.

State legislators failed to act on a bill last session that would have raised the state's minimum wage to $11 in January, and $15 by 2023.

Pickus said, “They think that if you do that it's anti-business. The reality is it's not anti-business. It's pro-consumer. It's pro-worker and it allows people to have money so they can buy the stuff that businesses create. Connecticut has recovered somewhat from the recession. We haven't recovered all the way and we certainly haven't recovered compared to some of our neighboring states,” said Gjede.

The minimum wage in Connecticut is $10.10. Massachusetts is $11.

Amazon didn't make anyone available locally to comment on their wage increase, but said they'll also be advocating to raise the federal minimum from $7.25.

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