Senator Chris Murphy is adding his voice to the call for a hike in the federal minimum wage.
Connecticut's minimum wage just went up, but there's increasing pressure from President Obama and the Senate Democrats for the federal minimum to follow suit.
Connecticut's junior senator told a press conference in Willimantic that it's a question of fairness. "Since 2009," Murphy said, "the incomes of the top one percent of Americans [have] increased 31 percent. The bottom 99 percent's incomes have increased by 0.4 percent."
Murphy's office produced a report on the impact on Connecticut of raising the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour. It would mean an extra $3,000 a year for families who exist on minimum wage. He said he understands why some small businesses fear such an increase. "But the data does clearly show," he said, "that if there are more people in Windham making ten dollars an hour, then there are going to be more people walking into the stores in this downtown, spending money."
The report claims that up to 100,000 people in the state earn minimum wage. It says the average worker earns 35 percent of their family's income.
Briana Fernandez, 21, spoke about her experience of working at minimum wage at McDonald's. She wanted to save to go to college, but "it makes it difficult to put money away," she said. "It makes it almost impossible. It's pretty much is impossible to put any money away, to be honest with you. Because if anything happens with a vehicle, or the heating bill goes up, that money goes right to it."
Murphy said he feels optimistic about the chances of getting a bill passed in the Senate, but he admitted it will be a tougher sell in the Republican-controlled House. "We have had success in shaming the House into doing the right thing occasionally," he said. "Here's what we know about the minimum wage. It enjoys broad, bipartisan support across this country, and so Republicans who want to block an increase in the minimum wage do so at their political peril."
The federal bill would also raise the hourly base pay for workers who receive tips, something that is fiercely opposed by restaurant trade associations.