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Connecticut's Low Wage Board Meets in Bridgeport

Harriet Jones
The national movement to raise minimum wages to $15 an hour began with fast food workers—like these Connecticut workers who picketed while on strike last summer at State House Square in Hartford.";

The Connecticut Low Wage Employer Advisory Board is holding its third hearing on Wednesday in Bridgeport. 

The 13-member panel is studying many aspects of low wages, including the causes of low wages, their effects on residents, and what minimum wage rates are needed for a stabilized living standard.

The Low Wage Board will be hearing testimony from low-wage workers, as well as state legislators, and community leaders.

DeshawnBrownel usually works security at a state site in Newington, where he makes just under $14 an hour.

Brownel recently moved up temporarily to $15 an hour while he works for his union on political issues.

He’s testifying before the Wage Board, and said, from his experience, $15 an hour would give people a lot of indepenedence.

"And what I mean by independence," Brownel said,  "is the freedom to have some purchasing power-not a whole lot, but a little bit. Or just to free themselves from some of their bills, ‘cause if you’re robbing Peter to give to Paul all the time, you’re never getting ahead, or you’ll never be able to save."
Brownel’s union, SEIU, backs a national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The movement helped push lawmakers in New York, California, and several large cities to pass legislation raising minimum wages to $15 an hour.

Eric Gjede is submitting written testimony to the Wage Board. He’s an attorney and lobbyist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, and he says the problem with legislating the minimum wage is that businesses will have to make cuts.

Gjede said there’s a better way to increase wages.

“I want people to be able to make more money," Gjede said, "and the only way that that happens is when businesses are doing well. And when they have to start competing with other businesses for labor. So If businesses are doing well they can afford more to other people.”

Gjede said improving Connecticut’s business climate is the best way to get employers to raise wages.

Mark is a former All Things Considered host and former senior editor with WSHU.

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