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Study Finds $15 Minimum Wage Isn’t Enough in Connecticut

by | Oct 15, 2015 4:30am
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Posted to: Business, Child Welfare, The Economy, Equality, Jobs, Labor, Nonprofits, Public Health, Poverty, State Budget, State Capitol

Christine Stuart/File Photo

An April Fight for 15 rally at the state Capitol

A progressive advocacy group released a report Tuesday that said a $15 minimum wage isn’t sufficient in a state where adult employees need to make $19.03 per hour to cover basic needs.

The group, Alliance For a Just Society, is an organization focused on health and social justice. Its annual report details the living wage for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. It found that the hourly wage a single worker must earn in order to live without public assistance and to be able to deal with emergencies exceeds $15 in 35 states and Washington, D.C.

At $9.15 an hour, Connecticut’s current minimum wage is matched by Vermont and exceeded only by Oregon and the District of Columbia. But the state’s high cost of living means a single, minimum-wage worker must put in 83.2 hours a week to cover the basics, according to the report.

The state minimum wage will increase to $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016, and then to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the groundbreaking measure into law in 2014, earning a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden to thank him for paving the way for other states.

But according to the Alliance For a Just Society’s report, that’s not good enough — and neither is the $15 minimum wage being promoted across the state and country in a movement known as the Fight For $15.

“Working full-time should ensure financial stability. To make that happen, it’s time to move beyond $15 per hour,” Allyson Fredericksen, the report’s author, wrote.

Legislation in the General Assembly to impose a fee on large corporations that don’t pay their employees at least $15 an hour failed in committee during this year’s session. The bill sought to charge big corporations like Wal-Mart $1 per hour for each employee paid $15 per hour or less to offset the costs of social services for those workers.

The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the bill would cover about 146,710 of the 743,328 employees who work for companies with at least 500 employees in Connecticut, with a potential revenue gain to the state of up to $152.6 million in 2016 and $305.1 million in future years.

An April policy brief from the conservative Yankee Institute said the large companies affected by the bill would be more likely to pay the tax than to raise their workers’ wages, and suggested that it would mean costs would go up for items and services those companies provide, and their low-wage workers would remain especially ill-equipped to absorb the price increases.

“These higher costs will hurt every consumer in Connecticut, but they will hurt the poorest residents — the people who these bills supposedly help — most of all,” the policy brief said.

But Labor Committee Co-Chairman Peter Tercyak, a Democratic state representative from New Britain, said the tighter the fiscal constraints get at the state level, the more support there is among state residents to force employers to offer a higher minimum wage. 

“I have already been getting calls to bring back the McWalmart bill by people who are outraged by the cuts to Medicaid that are hurting our hospitals and community providers,” he said.

Citing the decline of the middle class at the hands of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen, he said the economic picture for many Americans is bleak. Earnings should be shared with workers, according to Tercyak, in the name of both fairness and productivity.

Right now, “we haven’t incentivized anything except bare bones survival,” he said.

While organizers with the Fight for $15 movement weren’t successful in getting an increase in wages this year, they were able to get the legislature to create a 13-member board that will investigate “the causes and effects of businesses paying low wages to residents of the state,” and to review how many workers are receiving public assistance. The language creating the Low Wage Employer Advisory Board was included in the budget implementer that passed during the special session.

According to the report, a single adult would need to make $19.03 per hour in Connecticut to meet basic needs and to save for emergencies. A single parent with a school-aged child would need to make $28.99 per hour.

The study’s calculations are based on a family budget that includes basic necessities such as food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, clothing and other personal items, savings, and state and federal taxes.

Throw childcare into the mix and the demand on parents’ wallets goes up even more. Two parents working full time to provide for their toddler and a school-aged child would need to make $25.11 per hour each. A single adult with a toddler and a school-aged child would need to make $40.89 per hour.

Ann Pratt, the Connecticut Citizens Action Group’s director of organizing, said the study puts real numbers to the experience of those who work full time, or more, but remain trapped in poverty.

“Being forced to work an astonishing 83.2 hours per week just to make ends meet is both unrealistic and unjust,” Pratt said.

Advocates for a wage hike say that everyone should be given the opportunity to earn a livable minimum wage, thus increasing jobs and stimulating the economy, while opponents argue that a threshold spike would eliminate jobs and raise product prices.

A study released in April by the National Employment Labor Project found that a third of the workers in the state earn less than $15 per hour. This means Connecticut’s is the lowest percentage of workers under the wage ceiling, with the exception of Washington, D.C.

The average number of workers under the $15 threshold nationwide is 42 percent, the report states.

Another report released in April through the Connecticut Association of Human Services found that low-wage workers in Connecticut access $486 million in public assistance annually.

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Comments

(15) Archived Comments

posted by: justsayin | October 15, 2015  4:51am

So one can conclude that the state needs to reduce its taxes, gas, clothes cost etc along with make energy more affordable. That will help those who need it. The employers are already doing their “fair share” paying in the top 3 locations in the US.

posted by: SocialButterfly | October 15, 2015  10:24am

Inspired by Pres. Obama Gov. Malloy could could care less that many small Connecticut business would fail under a required $15 per hour minimum hourly pay that Obama programmed him for.

posted by: oldtimer | October 15, 2015  10:24am

Since when did the Minimum Wage morph into a Living Wage?

posted by: Clean Agent | October 15, 2015  12:26pm

If the minimum wage becomes $15 an hour and a roll of toilet paper goes to $8, they will be pushing for $30/hr as a minimum.

Raise the minimum wage for unskilled labor and you automatically devalue the earnings of everybody else who spent money on college degrees or time learning a trade.

posted by: 06416 | October 15, 2015  12:26pm

How about we make higher education AFFORDABLE and have large companies compensate lower hourly pay employees with benefits if they meet the criteria for being a full time employee.  I’m all for social liberalism and fiscal conservancy.  Full time employees anywhere should not need to have Medicaid for their primary insurance.

posted by: TimesaChangin | October 15, 2015  1:30pm

The Governor and the Legislature whose budget funds 99% of the operating expenses of human services not for profits need to read this article.  The staff working for theses agencies that support adults and children with variety of special needs have not received a raise in seven years and make on average $12.00/hour. It is the kettle complaining about the pot when the Governor and the Legislature are critical of Walmart.  You can not expect high quality human services when the staff supporting them need to work three jobs just to survive.  it is not fair and it is not right.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | October 15, 2015  3:29pm

Good question, oldtimer. But I make a whole lot more than 19.03 and still live paycheck to paycheck. Having said that, minimum wage was never meant to support a family, or even an individual. Seems to me it’s purpose is to ensure kids and part timers aren’t getting ripped off.

HST

posted by: Janster57 | October 15, 2015  4:47pm

I absolutely agree that people should be able to make a living wage. What I don’t understand is how the state government can mandate it. If the legislature passed a law requiring that everyone should be rich and happy, would that make it so? I fully understand that the government needs to protect the defenseless, but I don’t know that requiring a standard of living is either effective or realistic. Not that effective or realistic is ever a criteria for the CT legislature.

posted by: SocialButterfly | October 15, 2015  6:31pm

Mandadating minimum wages is just another Democratic/ Socialist ploy of deficit prosperty that has buried our state and country with massive debt. Continued votes for Democratic politicians is the certain invitation for federal and state bankruptcy. It’s earlier later than we think if we keep up this deficit sewer of “I Owe You’s” owing to most of the world we are heavily indebted to.

posted by: SocialButterfly | October 15, 2015  7:10pm

@Oldtimer: The answer is simple. It’s since misinformed voters elected in a Democratic controlling political power majority that shows the people no mercy. We did it to ourselves ‘and we are all paying the price for being careless at the polls.’

posted by: ehdatascientist | October 15, 2015  10:50pm

While the data are probably fairly accurate in indicating that $15 is not a sufficient level of income, I’m not sure if raising the minimum wage to 15 or even 19 solve any long term income issues. 
Income distribution is said to follow a “Bell Shaped Curve”, but actually it is shaped more like a “Baseball Cap” viewed sideways with lowest incomes in the head and top incomes in the visor—i.e. a very long upper tail.  When you raise the minimum, the whole curve just shifts upward but, data will probably show some compression at the low end and expansion at the top end—i.e. little growth in the median income but larger growth in incomes above the median.  People with fixed incomes and people earning at a level above the prior minimum wage and the new minimum wage generally get hurt by such a shift. 
A long term solution involves something that maintains the distribution of income levels and maybe compressing the upper end.  I’m not sure what such a solution would constitute—maybe, a fairly high maximum wage (wage being earned income excluding bonuses and capital gains) adjusted for cost of living would suffice and with a tax penalty for anything above the maximum wage—would be a good starting point for consideration.

posted by: justsayin | October 16, 2015  3:59am

I say make it $19.03 and see what happens. Someone has to call this bluff. We are trying to be first in everything else liberal.

posted by: Independent Mind | October 16, 2015  7:38am

oldtimer…right on…when did it make that switch?  Two things need to happen in our society for things to be different. 1) People need to stop being jealous of what everyone else has that they don’t and 2) Everyone needs to look at their own spending habits…Everyone needs to make a BUDGET and decide whats a NEED and whats a WANT…the NEEDS in life are: food, shelter, utilities, transportation, and clothes.  So lets make a pretend budget on minimum wage for a family of 4 (both spouses working and assuming you own 2 $1500 vehicles).  After taxes, your combined take home pay would be $550.  That leaves $320/month for food, $600/month rent, $150/month utilities, $400/month for gas, $85/month for car ins, and $100/month for car repairs.  That’s a total of $1555 out of $2200…you then have $645 to either adjust those amounts or spend on other things…now remember utilities is electric and hot water, not a cell phone, 600 channel cable package, etc…we are only talking about the basic NEEDS of life.  If you don’t want to live that life, then you need to make different choices…Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument, or your age to blame.  You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.

posted by: SocialButterfly | October 16, 2015  2:55pm

@Independent Mind: Your punch line “holds no water” stating “only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make” when erratic voters are electing Democratic/Socialist politicians that are taking away our personal freedoms of choice.  We are all victims of lunacy at the voting polls.

posted by: One and Done | October 19, 2015  1:57pm

Let’s make it $20 an hour so that we ensure high school and college children can never possibly work their way through school and so that they’ll have no work experience after school so they can go on welfare and vote democrat forever.