An estimated 65,000 to 70,000 workers in Connecticut will see an increase in their pay Jan. 1 when the minimum wage increases 45 cents from $8.25 to $8.70.
That means an extra $18 a week and more than $936 a year for an individual working 40 hours a week.
“This is a real shot in the arm,” for those individuals, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday at a Capitol press conference.
He said about 60 percent of the minimum wage workers in Connecticut are working in food-related businesses.
“They deserve a break today,” Malloy quipped referring to a McDonald’s slogan.
The 45-cent hike passed earlier this year by the General Assembly will help lift these individuals out of poverty, according to Malloy.
He said he’s heard the argument that these minimum wage workers are mostly teenagers, but he said that most of the time those teenagers are contributing to their families “because that’s how bad it has gotten in the United States.”
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said that those earning the minimum wage are more often older adults trying to provide for themselves or their families.
“Those who earn the minimum wage include a disproportionately higher number of women, blacks, and Hispanics.They already face the obstacles of discrimination and lesser pay for equal work,” Williams said. “But those earning minimum wage include a large number of white males as well.”
Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said there are many workers trying to piece together several minimum wage jobs in order to make a living.
“Most minimum wage jobs are in many cases hard work, repetitive work, often work that is somewhat tedious and time weighs heavy on people who are working on minimum wage jobs,” Looney said.
He said time is finite and society has a “continuing obligation to make sure that those people are not left behind.”
Labor Department Commissioner Sharon Palmer said the state should make every effort it can to try and get these minimum wage workers to a living wage.
Malloy said he supports efforts by Democrats in Congress to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour, but declined to say exactly what he considers a living wage.
“I think that the living wage is undoubtedly more than the minimum wage,” Malloy said. “. . . But I think we need to be about raising wages generally speaking.”
The minimum wage will increase to $8.70 on Wednesday and another 30 cents in 2015. The new law adjusts tip credit rates over the next two years so that restaurants and hotels are not required to increase the wages they pay their waitstaff and bartenders. Hourly wages for waitresses and waiters will remain at $5.69 and bartenders will continue to make $7.34. Tips from patrons are expected to make up the difference.
Small business advocates have argued that it will be tough for businesses to absorb the increase.
During the debate in the House, Rep. Anthony D’Amelio, a Waterbury Republican who runs a restaurant, said many businesses want to pay their employees more but can’t afford it.
“This bill, as well-intentioned as it is, will cost jobs,” he said. “. . . There is nowhere else to squeeze a dollar, especially in this economy.”
Lawmakers in the House approved the bill in a 89-53 vote after almost six hours of debate. The Senate, which refused to take up a bill increasing the minimum wage in 2012, approved it on a 21-15 vote after around two-and-a-half hours of debate. No Republicans in either chamber voted in favor of the increase.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said increasing the minimum wage is part of a plan “to lift all boats.”
He said the increase in the minimum wage is part of an overall attempt to “bring Connecticut back and make our economy stronger.” He said that’s why he’s disappointed there were no Republican votes for the increase.