The minimum wage increased to $15 Credit: J.J. Gouin via Shutterstock

The minimum wage rose to $15 an hour with the start of June, completing an increase from a rate of $10.10 per hour just four years ago. 

It also marks a dramatic shift in minimum wage hikes going forward, with increases tied to the cost of living. 

“No one should work a full-time job and live in poverty,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “For too long, while the nation’s economy grew, the income of the lowest earning workers stayed flat, making existing pay disparities even worse and preventing hardworking families from obtaining financial security.” 

Starting next year, the minimum wage will go up annually on Jan. 1 based on the federal employment cost index, or ECI. 

The ECI is how the U.S. Department of Labor measures changes in employee compensation. The law, approved in 2019, states the ECI’s successor will become the new driver if the Labor Department changes to a new method. 

“It takes it out of politicians hands who might throw a buck here, 75 cents there and instead lets it go up the way other economic adjusting factors happen,” House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday. 

He also said it’s part of a larger effort to expand benefits for workers. The legislature this year is also considering a bill to expand the state’s paid sick leave law, requiring all private employers to offer at least 40 hours of time. 

“We want people who work for a living to be able to support their families,” Ritter said. 

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said the measures hurt employers. 

“The Democrats have to find a way every session to take a chunk out of businesses,” he said. Candelora was critical of the decision to index the minimum wage to ECI, saying the annual increases could help continue to push inflation.

“I think the concern is having these automatic increases is tone deaf to everything and might just lead to more inflation and more pain,” he said. 

Connecticut Business and Industry Association Vice President for Public Policy Eric Gjede said most businesses are already paying workers more than $15 to compete for workers in a tight labor market. 

But he is concerned the bill calls for another increase on Jan. 1, estimating it could be another 70 to 80 cents. The rate before today’s increase was $14 an hour. 

Gjede was disappointed lawmakers approved having a process that increases the minimum wage without debating legislation. 

“You don’t have the opportunity to correct it when, you know, you have businesses that have gone through incredible challenges over the past few years,” he said. 

Conversely, labor groups say the legislature still needs to do more. 

Ed Hawthorne, president of AFL-CIO Connecticut, was disappointed that restaurants and other tipped workers haven’t received an increase in six-years.. A bill to raise pay for tipped workers doesn’t have the support to pass the legislature this year, House Democratic leaders said Wednesday. 

Hawthorne also criticized Lamont and lawmakers for not coming to terms with New England Health Care Employees Union, SEIU 1199NE. More than 1,700 group home and day program workers in the union launched an indefinite strike last week, seeking more pay and better benefits. 

These workers, also disproportionately women of color, are struggling to make ends meet and some have been experiencing homelessness because of their low wages,” Hawthorne said in a statement. “With the start of the second week of the strike, it’s past time the governor does the right thing and pays these workers a living wage.”

SEIU estimates the workers’ demands would cost the state another $200 million a year. Lawmakers are still negotiating a budget ahead of Wednesday’s end of session.