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The fight for $15/hr heats up at the State Capitol

HARTFORD —  The fight for $15 came to the State Capitol, Thursday. It’s a priority for Governor Ned Lamont and Democratic Legislative leadership.

There are three bills on the table that would raise the minimum wage. It was five years ago this month when Connecticut raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Back then, it was the highest in the nation.

“The time is now,” said Rep. Robyn Porter. Democratic Co-Chairs of the Labor Committee Robyn Porter and Julie Kushner held a press conference surrounded by supporters, and ahead of a public hearing on three bills. “It’s not easy. I’m working paycheck to paycheck,” said one low-wage worker.

The Senate and House bills would essentially do the same thing. They would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 in three steps. State Rep. Joe Polletta, a Republican from Watertown said, “Too me, that’s too quick and it doesn’t give businesses enough predictability in terms of hiring and in terms of what their cost is going to be going forward.” Richard Grimes is a Burger King Employee in Bloomfield. He said, “If companies keep paying as little as they can afford getting away with the economy will never get better.”

The Governor's bill is different. He calls for a $15 minimum wage by 2023 in a four step process. “Yes, we’re a year apart on when we get to $15 and we certainly don’t agree on the training wage,” said State Sen. Kushner. The lesser or training wage in the Governor’s bill applies to workers under 18 for 90 calendar days. Not all Democrats support it. “I don’t think we get to discriminate based on training or age,” said Rep. Porter. “We have to put dignity back in work and especially when people are doing the work that most of us are too good to do.”

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association argues the cumulative burden to businesses would just be too great. “It becomes more and more expensive to do business and to live in this state. We’re talking about tolls, we’re talking about increased cost of paid family medical leave, the minimum wage increase. All of these things add up,” explained CBIA’s Eric Gjede.

Republican State Rep. Joe Polletta said a higher minimum wage would be offset by costs. “Businesses have already said they are either going to cut employees or they are going to raise prices across the broad.” And speaking of working people, Kyra Franklin is working at Wendy’s while studying to be a teacher. “With that dream comes tons of bills and student loan debt. The struggle continues as I currently work at Wendy’s making 10.10 an hour while trying to put myself through school.”

The Labor Committees deadline to act on the bills is March 26th.

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