While Connecticut took a small step in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s march towards having the state’s minimum wage increased to $10.10 per hour, the bill is not being greeted by open arms by all in the state’s Latino community.
Richard DeJesus, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bridgeport, agrees that an increase could help low-wage workers and many in the minority community, but a $1.40 per hour increase he says will burden businesses too much in the current economy. “We have to strive for government participation without getting too far ahead of ourselves and hurting the economy,” DeJesus said.
The chamber intends to take an official public stance in the next few weeks on the issue after studying what impact the increase would have on their members. DeJesus said the chamber will be looking into how this will affect businesses when it comes to all the factors that go along with a wage increase. Like having to pay more for insurance and unemployment taxes.
“The last time it increased was different. This is a substantial raise,” DeJesus said.
A public hearing on the bill was held recently, which calls for an incremental increase in the state’s minimum wage each year until it reached $10.10 in January of 2017. The state’s current minimum wage is $8.70.
Senator Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain/Berlin, and vice chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, supports the measure, which is a part of the governor’s budget recommendations. “I see it as a quality of life issue,” Gerratana said. “Anything we can do to raise the quality of life, I’m for.”
Gerratana says large businesses are not paying a “living wage,” the government often has to provide minimum wage workers with state services to survive. She said this in effect means the government is essentially subsidizing these businesses.
While Gerratana understands that small businesses are concerned over the increase, she said that many businesses are already paying close to what the proposal would mandate. Additionally, the increases are happening over the next few years, easing the burden. “Keeping in mind the costs for small businesses, it’s always a trade off for quality of life and to be able to afford what you need,” Gerratana said.