On the day when Americans file their income taxes, fast food workers, nursing home workers, and adjunct professors from Connecticut to California walked off the job to rally for higher pay.
Their fight is to be paid $15 an hour.
In Connecticut, more than 1,000 low-wage workers, union members, advocates, and a dozen lawmakers gathered at the state Capitol to support the movement and legislation that would impose fees on large corporations that don’t pay their employees $15 an hour.
A recent study found that low-wage workers in Connecticut access $486 million in public assistance annually.
Lebert Lewin, works with the developmentally disabled, and has been working for the same organization for more than 10 years, said he hasn’t had a raise in the past eight. He makes $12.25 an hour.
He said an increase to $15 an hour would help him get better health insurance and maybe allow him to take some time off to spend with his family.
“Don’t even talk about vacation,” Lewin said. “There’s no such thing as vacation.”
He said the family only has one car and a $15 an hour wage would alleviate a lot of “the pressures I’m going through.”
Nicole Jefferson, who works at a nursing home in East Windsor, can relate.
She said right now her refrigerator is empty and her daughter’s school uniform is ripped. She said $15 an hour would help her buy a new uniform for her daughter and help her make payments on her home heating contract.
“I’m tired of working,” Jefferson said. “I’m tired of living the way I’m living.”
Jefferson is represented by SEIU 1199 New England and works at one of the homes where workers were prepared to strike. The union postponed the strike this week at the request of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The nursing home workers were going to strike over wages and left the door open to a future strike.
In the meantime, workers are supporting legislation that would impose a fee on large corporations who don’t pay their employees at least $15 an hour. The legislation seeks to charge big corporations like Wal-Mart $1 per hour for each employee paid $15 per hour or less.
The fiscal note estimates that about 146,710 of the 743,328 employees who work for companies with at least 500 employees in Connecticut would be covered under the bill. The note says bill would result in a revenue gain to the state of up to $152.6 million in 2016 and $305.1 million in future years.
Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, said this is the third year in a row that the issue has been raised.
He said with the state running a deficit and social service cuts on the chopping block, more lawmakers are looking at the legislation as an acceptable way to raise revenue.
“This is very attractive income for the state,” Tercyak said.