The Fight for $15: Legislative Update

by Poligags

There are a few bills in play or being drafted in some state legislatures that aim to address the plight of low-wage workers. As near as we can tell, their main intent is to apply pressure to major employers – those that directly employ a certain number of people within that state who earn less than the strived-for threshold of $15 per hour – to voluntarily adopt paying a living wage.

Across the country, full-time minimum wage earners find themselves having to apply for food stamps and other forms social assistance. Their employers encourage them to; their employers show them how. The public subsidizes these bad players through their taxes.

So, you would think we would welcome an effort in Connecticut that proposes to force employers with 500 or more direct employees and paying less than $15/hour to pay an assessment of $1 per employee as described in the Hartford Courant. The truth is, we’re not so sure about it as it is written.

The Courant did not, in its roughly 1150-word article, mention the bill number. So we did the research. It turns out that there are actually two similar bills – one in each chamber of the state’s General Assembly.

The one mentioned in the article corresponds to SB 1044. If passed, it would apply to employers of 500 or more people, and would impose a tax / fee / fine on every one who is not paid $15 per hour or greater. The money would go straight into the General Fund to be re-distributed to state social service agencies “to support and improve the quality of state-supported consumer-directed services for elderly and disabled persons” and to increase access to “school readiness programs, the child care subsidy program…Head Start, Early Head Start or other programs…” Funds would also be allocated for administering and enforcing the law.

The second piece of legislation is HB 6791. This one would apply to employers of 250 or more direct employs. Like SB 1044, a wage threshold is established, as is an assessment for every person not being paid at or above that rate. Again, the money goes to the state treasury. And, after that, it seems to do nothing other than pay for the program itself!

There is not one word in either of these bills about direct assistance to the affected workers on whose backs these funds would be generated. Elder and child care are certainly worthy social services, but if a low-wage worker has neither elderly relatives nor young children requiring these programs, how are workers’ lives in any way improved by these bills?

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