Connecticut’s minimum wage rises to $14 an hour July 1, up $1 and cheering low-wage workers while adding to business owners’ worries about labor shortages and inflation.
It’s the fourth annual increase since 2019 and the next raise, to $15 an hour, is set for June 1, 2023, following a national campaign by organized labor and its allies in state legislatures. Increases will be automatic beginning in 2024, pegged to an index calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
State law signed by Gov. Ned Lamont in 2019 when the minimum wage was $10.10 an hour. Business, particularly small employers. fiercely opposed the legislation as financially burdensome and a blow to workplace flexibility.
“Businesses are struggling so hard now to find people,” said Eric Gjede, vice president of government affairs at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. “That’s a bigger priority.”
Lamont said gradual increases would be easier for businesses to absorb. Critics say the minimum wage rises relentlessly regardless of changing economic conditions.
Since the law took effect three years ago, the economy briefly went into a recession during the pandemic in 2020, rebounded last year and is now in the throes of the highest inflation in more than 40 years. Another recession may be in the works if higher interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve to cool inflation overshoots the mark and chokes off business activity.
The Connecticut Food Association had that in mind when it urged state legislators in 2019 to extend minimum wage increases over six years with no indexing.
“We urge a measured and thoughtful approach that parallels Connecticut’s economic growth and future,” Wayne Pesce, president of the trade group, said at the time.
An eventual increase to $15 an hour would make a “huge difference” for workers in industries as varied as fast-food and health care, Beverley Brakeman, a regional official of the United Auto Workers, told lawmakers as they considered legislation.
The two sides of the debate were on display in May 2019 when the state House of Representatives voted 85-59 to raise the minimum wage following a marathon 14-hour debate that lasted through the night.
The sharply partisan debate began at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday and wrapped up with a 85-59 vote shortly after noon.
As of Jan.1, Connecticut’s minimum wage was the sixth highest in the U.S., behind Washington, D.C. ($15.20), Washington state ($14.49), Massachusetts ($14.20), California ($14) and New York ($13.20), according to the U.S. Department of Labor.©2022 Hartford Courant. Visit at courant.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.