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Standard Wage Bill Quietly Dies In Finance

by | May 2, 2013 4:33am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Labor

The legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee killed a bill Wednesday that would have made sure service workers are paid a standard wage by companies that receive more than $500,000 in state assistance.

The bill made it onto the agenda Wednesday but was never called for a vote.

Rep. Patricia Widlitz, who co-chairs the committee, said they decided not to call the bill because of concerns about the message it sent businesses in the state.

Widlitz said the state revenue numbers showed a decline in both the corporate income and sales tax.

“We have to be careful about anything that increases costs for business,” Widlitz said after the meeting.

The bill would have required companies receiving more than $500,000 from the Department of Economic and Community Development or Connecticut Innovations to pay food service, building maintenance, and property or equipment service workers a “standard wage.”

Under the standard wage law, private contractors operating in state buildings must pay their service workers a standard wage determined by the labor commissioner for each worker’s occupation, including an added amount to cover the cost of any health, welfare, or retirement plans.

The bill was supported by labor leaders in the state who don’t believe taxpayer dollars should be supporting “poverty wages.”

At a public hearing on the bill in March, Lori Pelletier, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO, testified that the bill is an issue of personal responsibility. She said “companies that accept financial assistance from the state should be held to a higher standard and pay their workers a standard wage. These workers will reinvest their wages back into the local communities which will bring economic growth.”

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association opposed the bill. It testified that it was so broad it would apply to any company receiving tax credits.

Eric Gjede, a CBIA lobbyist, testified that the bill would increase labor costs and give businesses more reasons to go elsewhere.

Widlitz agreed.

“It’s not sending a business friendly message,” she said.

Labor sources say they were in negotiations with the Malloy administration over how to strike an appropriate balance for the companies and service worker employees. But time ran out before they were able to reach an agreement.

The Department of Economic and Community Development did not return repeated calls for comment on the legislation. It also did not testify on the bill.

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