Minimum wage boost and paid family & medical leave bills get push

Snowy State Capitol (Report-It/ Robert Caroti)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut was among the very first states to have a family and medical leave law. All employers with 75 or more employees must allow up to sixteen weeks, but it is unpaid.

“When my second baby arrives, the loss of my salary for twelve weeks will be a financial hardship for my family,” said Elizabeth Lane of West Hartford.

Connecticut’s ‘Low-Wage Employer Advisory Board’ reports that least 20 percent of the Connecticut workforce is earning less than $15 per hour. That’s 336,000 workers. In the cites like New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford, the percentage is much higher. 

“How can I release my son into the world if I’m struggling to provide for him,” said Yvonne Rodriguez of Hartford, a worker at a Dunkin Donuts.

The minimum wage was just boosted the first of the year to $10.10, but Democrats in both the House and Senate, in addition to a ‘Paid Medical Leave’ law, are pushing bills to boost it to $15 over the next five years and have it indexed automatically to the inflation rate after that.

“Families are living and struggling on minimum wages. The typical minimum wage earner in Connecticut is a woman in her thirties with children,” said Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) the Senate President Pro tem and sponsor of one of the bills.

They note that taxpayers actually end up subsidizing businesses that pay minimum wages.

“The wages that they pay their employees are not sustainable so they end up being qualified for things like food stamps and Medicaid and government housing,” said Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) the co-chair of the legislature’s Labor Committee.

“Not every business is able to afford to do this. This has massive costs to the State of Connecticut. The ‘Paid Medical Leave’ program alone is $13 million in start up costs, $18 million in on going costs for taxpayers,” said Eric Gjede of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

Governor Dannel Malloy‘s office says he is in favor of the goals of both of these concepts but so far, he is declining to support the proposals being discussed by state lawmakers at this time.

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