Connecticut is about to raise its minimum wage, just as the debate about low-wage workers heats up in Washington, D.C. Governor Dannel Malloy and his fellow Democrats in the state House and Senate held a press conference Monday to mark an important change this new year. "When the crystal ball falls in New York," Malloy said, "at that moment, people in Connecticut will be getting a raise."
On January 1, the minimum wage in the state will go from its current level of $8.25 to $8.70. It's the first of two hikes enacted in legislation this year. The second will take effect a year from now, raising the wage to $9.00 an hour.
The change affects about 70,000 people in Connecticut. Businesses opposed to the raise argue that many of them are young, perhaps working part-time, or in their first job. But the Democrats disagree, saying most are older adults, trying to support families by working two and three jobs.
Malloy said that even for those young people working for minimum wage, the raise is not a luxury. "Yes," he said, "we have a lot of young people who are working after school and on weekends, but in many, many, many of those cases, they are actually contributing to the welfare of their family, because that's how tough it's gotten in the United States."
For others, it's a matter of basic fairness, as the the nation's wealth gap gets ever wider. Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams said that if wages had kept up with worker productivity, the minimum wage would now be above $18.00 an hour. He said, "Executive compensation at the nation's largest firms has roughly quadrupled in real terms since the 1970s, while pay for 90 percent of America has stayed flat. This has led to the greatest period of wage inequality since the robber baron era more than 100 years ago."
President Obama has also been speaking out on the minimum wage in recent weeks, and Congressional Democrats are seeking legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.00 an hour.
Watch CT-N's footage of the press conference below:
This report contains information from The Associated Press.