HARTFORD, CT — When the legislative dust cleared, a proposal to increase Connecticut’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 failed to gain any traction and never made it to a vote in either chamber.
More than a week ago, Democratic legislative leadership in the House said that the Senate wanted to try to pass the bill first. However, they were unable to determine how Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, would vote on a $12/hour minimum wage. Hartley voted for a $15 an hour minimum wage bill in committee, but she warned that her vote didn’t mean she would support it in the Senate.
“I am going to vote for this coming out of committee, but I am not going to vote for this on the floor,” Hartley said on April 17 when the bill passed the Appropriations Committee. However, she seemed to leave the door open for discussion of something lower than $15 an hour.
In 2016, the Senate attempted and failed to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.
The current minimum wage is $10.10 an hour. It’s possible that neither chamber had the votes to increase it to $12.
Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, said Wednesday that he believed they had at least 64 votes and maybe 75 votes in the House. But in order to pass the legislation, they would have needed 76 votes.
Elliott said regardless of whether it would pass, they thought they had struck a deal over the weekend to at least put it on the board and debate it.
He said it was likely going to fail, but that didn’t matter. He felt it deserved a vote.
He said they were given a choice Tuesday of running the minimum wage or a bill concerning racial and ethnic impact statements. He said Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, who co-chairs the Labor and Public Employees Committee, chose to run the other bill because it had already passed the Senate.
On Wednesday, the final day of session, Elliott said he again approached leadership about running the bill.
He said that House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, asked him what would happen if they were still debating the bill when they had to call the budget. Elliott said he went back to the Progressive Caucus he recently formed and asked them for their input.
Some members gave up fighting for it, according to Elliott, while others were scared of letting all the other legislation they had worked on die as a result of a prolonged minimum wage debate.
“Our negotiating power died when people realized we had taken a couple passes on it,” Elliott said.
He said at that point he went back to leadership and told them not to run it because they didn’t want to debate it for five hours and “PT it,” which means “pass temporarily.” It essentially means they would have to table it.
“This makes us look incompetent,” Elliott said.
He said they could have gotten it up on the board at any time and had the debate.
There were 16 Republican amendments filed on the bill and the business community used their muscle to fight against it even though the Commission on Fiscal Stability included it as one of its recommendations.
A minimum wage increase was something that the governor wanted, leadership wanted, and a majority of the Democratic caucus wanted, Elliott said.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the members of the Connecticut General Assembly were unable to either raise the minimum wage nor pass a much-needed bill offering paid family leave,” Porter said. “As residents of one of the most expensive states in the nation, the men and women who struggle to get by on the minimum wage in Connecticut simply have not been able to keep their heads above water. And families everywhere struggle to take important time to care for sick relatives or welcome a newborn baby. We have a moral obligation to assist them, and an obligation to boost our state’s overall economy by joining states like California and New York with a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave. This fight is not over.”
Advocates for women and labor were equally disappointed.
“We are extremely disappointed that the legislature did not even have the courage to bring minimum wage up for a vote this year,” AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier said. “Minimum wage workers are trying to squeeze by on only $21,000 a year and that’s if they are lucky to be full-time. At that wage, they cannot even afford a one bedroom apartment in Connecticut.”
The minimum wage is a women’s issue because more than 60 percent of Connecticut minimum wage earners are women.
“Maine is on pace to raise their minimum wage to $12 an hour, Rhode Island will be going up to $10.50 in January, New York City will hit $15 in a few years, Massachusetts is already at $11, and the Vermont legislature just voted to raise their minimum wage to $15,” Pelletier said. “Connecticut has fallen woefully behind the rest of New England on raising the minimum wage. We can do better. We must do better.”
Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) Executive Director Kate Farrar said they are extremely disappointed that some of their agenda, including a minimum wage hike, didn’t get over the finish line. They also worked to pass paid family and medical leave, a fair work week, and expanded sexual harassment training and protections.
“Every day, women are forced to choose between their paycheck and caring for a sick child or relative or battling their own illness,” Farrar said. “Every day, women face harassment in their workplaces. Economic security for women in our state is critical to the well-being of our workforce and prosperity of our state’s economy.”