Governor Dan Malloy rang in the New Year with a minimum wage increase from $8.25 to the current $8.70, but he thinks Connecticut can do better.
The proposal is-through a series of step increases-a $10.10 minimum wage by 2017, and that’s music to the ears of workers such as Miguel Ortiz, a newly hired employee at Insomnia Cookies on Chapel Street in New Haven.
“Before I was working at this restaurant and I was getting paid $8.75,” Ortiz said. “They were having me work two to three days a week, so that was nothing.”
Since switching over to Insomnia, he’s gotten a slight raise-they started him at $9-but he says that any increase can help.
“Prices on everything go up,” Ortiz said. “Minimum wage isn’t really cutting it.”
The consumer price index on, well, everything, had gone up 1.6 percent throughout the 12 months leading up to this past January for “all urban consumers”, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of food saw a .1 percent increase that month, with a 1.1 percent total bump throughout the period as a whole.
Costs associated with shelter went up 2.6 percent in the 12 months, and by .3 percent in January, according to the Bureau.
Dave Duda is the owner and manager of Book Trader, a coffee shop and bakery a few blocks down the street. His employees are also at $9 an hour, and he wouldn’t mind paying a little more, although he’s skeptical as to how much good it will do in places that skirt the regulations.
“I’m all in favor of a reasonable minimum wage,” Duda said. “[But] it’s hard to figure how some business owners that don’t abide by the minimum wage laws that exist now, would abide by that.”
The elephant in the room is Gourmet Heaven, the store on Broadway that was ordered by the Connecticut Department of Labor to pay $140,000 in back wages for failing to compensate workers at minimum wage standards, and is now being accused of retaliatory firings along with overtime violations.
“It might actually give us an advantage if other businesses had to abide by that [minimum wage],” Duda said.
Over at Pizza on Broadway, one chef, who asked not to be named, admitted that he likes his pay, but said that that’s not the reason why a $10.10 minimum wage sounds like a bad idea to him.
“The economy is so bad,” he said. “If you pay $10.10, they’ll start cutting hours.”
Duda has a different take. When you take inflation into account, consumers need to be paid more in order to provide business, he said.
“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of business owners telling you it’s bad for business, but I happen to believe trickle-down economics doesn’t work,” Duda said. “If workers have a higher wage, they’ll be able to buy your products.”
For a period, yes, but it’s not a lasting effect, said Mike, a manager at Ashley’s Ice Cream store who declined to give his last name.
“Overtime the prices are going to go up to match that,” Mike said. “So it’ll be like nothing happened, which is a shame.”
While Mike-who has an economics degree from Quinnipiac University and has been an employer for 10 years-is supportive of the proposal to boost the minimum wage to $10.10, he admits that he would expect to see a little more out of his employees in that scenario. He envisions a model wherein which workers have a profit share in the business.
“If a company’s booming, then everyone’s doing better,” he said. And if the company tanks, you have a minimum wage.”