SECOND LOOK: Proposed $15 minimum wage brings mixed reactions

Published on Thursday, 7 February 2019 18:39
Written by Art Secondo

It didn’t take long for Gov.Ned Lamont to terrify business owners across the state when he happily announced Connecticut would support and urge a minimum wage that would increase the current $10.10 an hour to $15.

Minimum wage increases have become numerous in the country and support is divided among those who sincerely believe working class people with no financial reserves and those whom are young with apparently no skills, deserve a decent cost of living wage. On the other side are business people who believe they cannot financially adsorb such an hourly increase.

Critics of a substantial hourly increase argue that it backfires against the sincere efforts of lawmakers who support this kind of legislation. Appealing to voters, new lawmakers tend to offer bills that will either fall by the wayside or ignite a voter applause.

Depending on what your status in life may be, increasing the hourly wage over a period of several years, sounds like a nice thing for young kids flipping hamburgers, bagging groceries and wiping down cars at the local car wash. Then there are the struggling families who are stuck in jobs that offer no incentive for better pay.

The negative side includes those who employ lots of people especially in the food business. Let’s imagine if every one of the 104 restaurants in Southington were to adapt a $15 an hour per employee expense, the amount of money would be staggering. One major employer of nearly 100 high school and college age workers, estimated his cost would be over $300,000, thus forcing an increase in prices and decrease in staff. “We’d have no choice but to evaluate our budget and use any new technology as much as we can,” said the owner who declined to be identified.

Another Southington restaurant owner was adamant that the proposal was just crazy. “It would drive up my payroll to the point where my food and drink prices would be rather undesirable,” the owner said. Another employer stated he was also concerned about higher paid employees wanting more to compensate for the increase to his former less-paid colleagues.

Of course, critics are using every negative argument against the Connecticut minimum wage that would increase by $5. Beside driving up prices for goods, they claim unemployment would surge reflecting the loss of jobs for those being eliminated.

As a former owner of a restaurant that employed more than 25 workers at minimum wage, a substantial increase in pay would have severely dented my weekly gross forcing me to increase my menu prices and reducing my staff at a risk of providing poor service.

Yet, as a grandfather with grandchildren depending on minimum wage jobs, I would sympathize with employers but be selfishly happy that my young relatives would probably come home with more money than before, providing their hours aren’t reduced or their jobs eliminated.

One study that helps to contradict worries from critics, finds that only a slight percentage of the workforce receive the minimum wage, reportedly only two percent. This argument satisfies proponents of the hike who believe employees will be happier and be more responsible thus allowing for less recruiting and training.

Connecticut’s current minimum wage of $10.10 will take time to be increased. The pros and cons will be debated but the fact is any hike is guaranteed and the public will have to accept it with the reality that living here is very expensive.

Unfortunately, we could just be getting used to paying tolls and tax on our groceries when a grilled cheese costs $10 after being ordered from a kiosk.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Southington Herald on Thursday, 7 February 2019 18:39. Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2019 18:42.