Why We Fought So Hard For Connecticut's Higher Minimum Wage
I am proud that my home state of Connecticut made history last month when we enacted the highest state minimum wage in the country: $10.10 per hour. As $10.10 per hour is also the federal minimum wage proposed by the President and Democratic leaders in Congress, Connecticut is essentially leading the way as national momentum builds.
In part to demonstrate why we fought so hard for this wage raise for the people of Connecticut, I began my own Minimum Wage Grocery Challenge on the eve of the final vote in the state legislature. With the National Week of Action set to begin in the coming days, it was also an opportunity for me to bring more visibility to a priority I believe is key to a "Real Prosperity Across America": ensuring that all Americans who work for a living can make a living from their work.
The converse is a reality that's all too common, one that women especially understand all too well given that they are two thirds of the minimum wage earners. To gain more first-hand insights, last week I tried to live on a $28 food budget for a week -- approximating the financial challenges facing my constituents who, despite holding down a job, are scraping by because they're paid too low for this day and age. To say that it's difficult to afford nutritious foods, and enough of it, on just $4 a day is an understatement. Taking the challenge also hit home the trade offs and sacrifices that working parents must weigh every day: paying rent or buying medicine, affording the kids' school supplies or going hungry another day.
Unfortunately, when corporate employers pay a minimum wage that's just too low for this day and age, millions of workers are forced to face those choices every day and to live in poverty despite holding down a full time job. No wonder that workers like Moms Rising member Cynthia say they feel like they're getting "ripped off" by their jobs. Even the basic necessities like groceries can be a stretch to afford, pushing working families to rely on programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to get by. The financial hardships mount, trapping workers in a situation where they can't even stay afloat let alone get ahead.
It should not be this way anywhere in America. That's why my colleagues and I in the Connecticut legislature worked so hard to advance the minimum wage increase -- and why I hope that Congress will take the same step to secure a real prosperity for millions more Americans. They've waited long enough.