It came on the heels of President Obama's visit to CCSU to rally support for federal legislation that languishes in the GOP controlled U.S. House of Representatives. The point of Obama's visit was that states and localities now need to lead and pressure Speaker Boehner & company to adjust the federal minimum which hasn't changed in a long time.
|Front Page from The Recorder, CCSU's student |
newspaperafter President Obama's visit.
Thinking nationally and acting locally worked. Nine Council Democrats were joined by Ward 4 Alderman Don Naples, an unaffiliated who ran with GOP Mayor Erin Stewart last year.
Ward Five Alderman Carlo Carlozzi, Jr. led the majority's argument for the city to go to $10.10 in 2015-2016 after a council committee exempted independent contractors from the increase. Carlozzi, pretty much a fiscal conservative with a record of voting against municipal budgets, made the "moral' argument. Invoking the experiences of his labor Democratic parents Carlozzi noted that the compromise measure on $10.10 won a unanimous vote in committee and he was surprised to hear opposition on the Council floor. "Are we really telling people we can't afford paying them 50 cents more an hour?" asked Carlozzi, noting that the state minimum goes to $9.60 the year after next and won't reach $10.10 until 2017.
City officials estimate the impact of $10.10 for eligible employees would be somewhere north of $80,000. But Carlozzi, who delivered a budget-cutting soliloquy on ways to avoid tax hikes at the start of the meeting, insisted that even the most austere municipal budget should find room for half a buck an hour more for entry level wages in city jobs. Approximately 160 employees, part and full time, would be covered by the new minimum.
"Democrat" Daniel Salerno, a member of the Council's Republican caucus, and Minority Leader Jamie Giantonio, led the opposition to the measure on jurisdictional and fiscal grounds. Salerno, being a good soldier for the Stewart Administration, argued minimum and living wages are not the concern of elected officials in local government. Giantonio, noting the precarious financial condition of the budget, indicated that the city could use the money for other things instead of upping the minimum for a limited number of city employees a year ahead of the state mandated wage policy.
The GOP Aldermen, wanting to have it both ways, quickly endorsed "living wages" that exceed $10.10 in theory but fell back on familiar arguments used whenever proposals to have minimums catch up with the cost of living: it'll kill jobs and drive costs up for consumers (taxpayers).
Alderman Salerno makes a good point: if Congress, specifically the GOP House was doing its job to adjust the $7.25 federal wage, neither city nor state would need to debate the issue. The $10.10 an hour would already be in the calculations for the current budget let alone next year's or the year after that.
The Common Council, however, did the right thing in passing more than a feel good resolution backing state and federal action after the Obama visit. The need for constrained spending and austerity in municipal budgets is undeniable. But paying an additional 50 cents per hour for the least paid among city workers is a step toward fairness and away from the excuses and myths that always come from opponents. Excuses and myths are holding the minimum to $7.25 nationally but not in Connecticut nor New Britain.