Testimony on Increasing the Minimum Wage

Dear Senator Osten, Representative Tercyak, and members of the Labor Committee,

My name is Matt Waggner, I live in Fairfield, and I’m here to speak in support of two bills today: SB 32, the proposed minimum wage increase, and HB 5069, “An Act Concerning Low Wage Workers.”
Labor Committee Testimony - February 18, 2014
Increasing the minimum wage will improve the lives of thousands of Connecticut residents, both for those working for the minimum wage and those who work where the pay scale is based on the minimum wage. Further, recent labor market research has found that while increasing the minimum wage does raise earnings, there is no measurable job loss associated with these increases.

While the bill before you will help working Connecticut families make up for lost ground, I hope that you will consider both reversing the long-running erosion in wages for tipped workers, as well as indexing the minimum wage to ensure that lower wage workers can earn their fair share of future gains in the economy.

Research outlets from the Economic Policy Institute to the Heritage Foundation agree that productivity – the economy-wide measure of worker output – has grown at a rate far above both the minimum and average wages for decades. This, more than anything, is the cause of workers feeling squeezed, and has led to an economy where those who wish to retire must stay in jobs to make ends meet, where parents who might prefer to spend their time raising children must hold down multiple jobs to pay their bills, and where a generation of young people are discovering that the entry-level positions in their chosen careers are already filled.

I also would like to speak in support of HB 5069, which would establish a fee applied to large, low-wage employers to help fund the social services that the state provides to low-income families. We know, from media reports of chains providing information on applying for food stamps and other programs to their employees, that for some large businesses, the social safety net is used to justify systematically underpaying and underscheduling workers.

To my view, the appeal of this proposal comes from its potential to help local and small businesses with responsible business practices compete in an economy driven by the business practices of large chains. Small businesses don’t have the resources to compete for economic development grants or to deal with the high turnover that comes with managing a low-wage workforce, and this economic equalizer will help them stay in business and provide the stable jobs our local economies need.

I hope you will consider taking this opportunity, when economic inequality is a part of the national conversation, to establish Connecticut as a leader in designing an economy where working people are able to enjoy the fruits of their labors, where the minimum wage can become a living wage, and where local businesses can continue to serve as the growth engine for good jobs.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.