POLITICS

Connecticut Passes $15 Minimum Wage

That makes it the fourth state just this year to sign off on $15.
The Fight for $15 movement, which began in 2012, has made a $15 minimum wage a plank of the Democratic Party.
The Fight for $15 movement, which began in 2012, has made a $15 minimum wage a plank of the Democratic Party.

The Fight for $15 notched another major victory early Friday morning, when lawmakers in Connecticut approved a plan to implement a $15 wage floor across the state by 2023.

The minimum-wage legislation passed the Democratic-controlled state Senate by a 21-14 vote along party lines. It heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who has already said he will sign it.

If the bill becomes law, Connecticut will become the seventh state to put its minimum wage on a track toward $15 per hour.

Under the plan, the state wage floor will rise from $10.10 to $11 in October, then a dollar every year thereafter, until it reaches $15 in October 2023. After that, it will be pegged to an inflation index so that it rises with the cost of living.

The Hartford Courant reported that floor speeches ahead of the vote lasted more than six hours, with Democrats giving impassioned talks in favor of the law, with Republicans warning it would cost the state jobs.

In a nod to employers, the bill includes a provision allowing for a lower “training” wage of $10.10 per hour for workers who are 16 or 17 and work the equivalent of three months or less out of the year. It also has a concession to the restaurant industry, maintaining a lower “tipped” minimum wage for waiters and bartenders.

The union-backed Fight for $15 campaign that began with strikes in the fast-food industry in 2012 has made a $15 minimum wage a plank of the Democratic Party. The group issued a statement Friday attributed to Joseph Franklin, a Hartford McDonald’s worker, who said the new wage floor would give him “peace of mind” and help him afford a bus ticket to and from work each day.

“When fast-food workers walked off the job nearly seven years ago demanding $15 and a union, nobody thought we had a chance,” Franklin said. “Our movement is gaining momentum.”

Indeed, Connecticut would be the fourth state just this year to pass a $15 plan, joining New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland. The very first states to do so were California, New York and Massachusetts. Every state that passed one has been under full Democratic control, with the exception of Maryland. That state’s Democratic legislature overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The Service Employees International Union, the prime backer of the Fight for $15, said the string of minimum wage hikes shows it’s time for Congress to pass a similar raise on the federal level. Mary Kay Henry, the union’s president, said in a statement that “until that happens, the Fight for $15 and a Union will keep fighting for our day-one demands.”

Despite the state-level momentum, a $15 federal minimum wage won’t be happening anytime soon. Republicans still control the Senate and have not taken up any minimum wage legislation. Meanwhile, Democrats, who now control the House, have been moving their own $15 bill but have met some resistance from moderates in their own party.   

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