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CT Home to Rich & Poor: Ground Zero for Minimum Wage Action

PHOTO: The minimum wage has been raised three times in 30 years, while executive pay by large firms increased by 23 percent last year (according to Equilar).
PHOTO: The minimum wage has been raised three times in 30 years, while executive pay by large firms increased by 23 percent last year (according to Equilar).
July 24, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. – Few states have the same kind of deep pockets of both rich and poor as Connecticut - and that disparity is one reason today's action to increase the minimum wage is likely to get major attention.

Kurt Westby, Connecticut state director of the 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), says the current federal minimum wage is so low that workers with families are living below the poverty line. He asks people to imagine being a minimum-wage worker in Connecticut, home to communities with some of the greatest wealth in the nation.

"Folks who are making minimum wage and slightly above, who are working two and three jobs - many who can't work those two or three jobs because they have been thrown out of work by the recession."

Hourly workers currently make $8.25 in Connecticut. Westby says raising the minimum hourly wage to $10 would put an average of $100 more in the pockets of those workers every week.

Today's protest, which begins at the State Capitol at 3:30 p.m., will also call attention to several companies in Connecticut that, according to Westby, have a long record of enacting policies that enrich shareholders at the expense of workers. And there are plenty of corporate "copycats" from coast to coast, he adds.

"A lot of contract cleaning, contract security companies find ways to lower wages, to not hire workers - with the goal of reducing costs and eliminating benefits. That's a bad model for our society."

Westby says all people feel the consequences when minimum-wage workers can't provide the kinds of things most American families need to succeed.

"Not having any extra, expendable money for things like daycare, preschool, post-school – anything like that, let alone insurance. So, the disparity between rich and poor is the most magnified in the state of Connecticut. "

The minimum wage has been raised three times in 30 years, while executive pay by large firms increased by 23 percent last year, according to Equilar, a company that compiles executive compensation data.

The most recent bill to raise the federal minimum wage, HR 5901, was introduced last month.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT