- Connecticut lawmakers have agreed to an incremental minimum wage increase that would put the state's minimum at $15 an hour by 2023. House Bill 5004 would first introduce an increase to $11 an hour effective on Oct. 1, 2019, with an additional $1 added to the minimum each year over the next four years. Starting Jan. 2024, the bill would mandate minimum-wage increases to be tied to the employment cost index, calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
- The Senate approved House Bill 5004 on Friday after House lawmakers did so on May 9. Debate of the bill in both chambers fell largely along party lines, with Democrats mostly in favor of the increase and Republicans in opposition, the Hartford Courant reported. In a statement, Gov. Ned Lamont said he intended to sign the bill into law.
- The bill includes a provision that allows employers to pay certain workers under age 18 either $10.10 an hour, the state's current minimum wage, or no less than 85% of the state minimum wage — whichever is higher — for the first 90 days of their employment. This is a concession to business groups and municipalities that hire teenage workers during the summer months, the Hartford Courant said. An additional provision would prohibit employers from taking action to displace employees, "for purposes of hiring persons under the age of eighteen years at a rate below the minimum fair wage."
The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has remained the same since 2009, and if recent comments from U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta are any indication, the Trump administration isn't likely to back changes to that figure in the near future.
Connecticut joins a bevy of states that have decided to raise wages in 2019 alone, and the debates around its bill mirror those on the national political stage. Republicans tend to argue pay hikes create an economic burden for businesses, while Democrats argue they give subsets of low-wage workers much-needed increases. A similar debate played out last month in Maryland, where Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a state proposal for an incremental $15 an hour increase. The state's Democratic majority general assembly overrode the veto to push ahead with the bill's passage.
At the corporate level, some leading employers are also raising their minimum wages. Google is requiring its contractors to pay workers a minimum $15 an hour wage, along with offering them health coverage and a range of other benefits. The tech giant came to its decision as a result of pressure from its employees, 20,000 of whom staged a global walkout in November to protest the company's handling of sexual harassment claims and treatment of contract workers.
Other large companies have followed suit, but not all businesses say they can afford to match similar minimum wage increases. Nonetheless, competition for talent in an employee-driven labor market has raised the issue's profile and it is clear some are willing to pay workers higher wages to attract and retain them.