Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

March 8, 2018

On International Women’s Day, Democrats, Advocates, Workers and Students Call for Earned Family Medical Leave, Pay Equity and Increasing the Minimum Wage

Calling for smart, progressive policies that will help create economic security for women and families across Connecticut, Democrats in the General Assembly joined with students, mothers, workers and advocates on International Women’s Day to push for Connecticut to adopt an Earned Family Medical Leave law, a Pay Equity law and an increase of the minimum wage.

“At our very core, Democrats believe in equal pay for equal work; that no one working full-time should be forced to live in poverty; and that if you, your child or another member of your family gets sick, you should be able to take time off to care for them without an added financial burden,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “These proposals reflect Connecticut Democrats’ belief that in order to improve the economy we need an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top.”

Earlier this year, Democrats in the State Senate and State House of Representatives released their Democratic Values Agenda, aimed at supporting the middle class and creating economic opportunities for everyone; opening access to education; protecting women’s health care; keeping Connecticut residents healthy; supporting Connecticut’s hospitals; and preserving our democracy. A major pillar of the agenda is economic security for women and families.

“Business friendly and worker friendly are not mutually exclusive to encouraging economic growth,” said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin/Southington). “Whether gender pay equity, earned family and medical leave, or a living wage, these are all issues of fairness that will positively impact thousands of Connecticut families and our long term economy.”

“The United States is well behind the rest of the world when it comes to earned family medical leave policies,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “In fact, Papua New Guinea and the United States are the only countries in the world without paid family leave. If Connecticut wants to retain young people, attract top talent and grow the middle class, passing an earned family medical leave bill, a pay equity bill and raising the minimum wage will give Connecticut a competitive advantage and send a message that our state values its workers and is a great place to live and raise a family.”

“Connecticut’s ability to thrive is dependent upon the state of our working families and the state of our economy. By addressing the economic disparities present in our state and creating equitable opportunities for everyone, we can invest in the success of our families and our businesses. This starts with workers making a living wage, establishing an earned family and medical leave system and ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work. These core values are what weave the fabric of our state together because it’s not just about economic issues, it’s about moral issues. It’s about dignity and respect. No full-time worker should ever have to depend on public assistance.” said state Rep. Robyn Porter, (D-New Haven), co-chair of the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee.

“When it comes to a lack of paid family and medical leave, the United States is the only developed country on this planet without it,” Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford). “We’re lumped in with New Guinea and Suriname and the only three countries in the world not to care for our citizens in this way. Connecticut can be different. We can join other American states and other countries around the world who support families with an earned family and medical leave policy.”

“It’s absolutely critical that Connecticut ensures that women will earn just as much as they deserve, and just as much as men make,” said Senator Mae Flexer (D-Danielson). “It’s a long overdue matter of fairness and principle. And when young people are making decisions about where they want to live after college, where they want to get a job and start a family—these are the kinds of public policies that they are looking for in a state to call home. We must move forward with this pay equity initiative and send the message that Connecticut values women, that Connecticut values fairness and families, and that we as a state and a people are going to be stronger than ever with a pay equity law.”

“What’s changed since last year in our fight for pay equity? Nothing and everything. Women still make 80-cents on the dollar compared to men. That said, momentum is building across the country and in Connecticut for pay equity legislation. Marches and protests are leading to policy changes. It’s time to eliminate the pay history question from the job application process and help close the gender wage gap. If we do nothing it will take 50 years for the gap to close—even in the land of steady habits, that should be unacceptable,” said state Rep. Derek Slap, (D-West Hartford).

“Raising the minimum wage here in Connecticut is popular with about two-thirds of state residents, especially women and people under age 50. They know the sheer impossibility, that treadmill-like feeling, of working two or three minimum wage jobs just to try and keep their heads above water. This has got to change. If Connecticut legislators are truly as serious as they claim to be about building a workforce and serving their communities, then we will pass an increased minimum wage bill this year,” said Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague).

“I stand today in support of families, single mothers, and all working people of Connecticut who are putting in more than their fair share of an honest day’s work and still coming up short each month. It’s no way to live,” Labor Committee co-chair Senator Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport) said. “We need to establish a livable wage in this state so that no one working 40, 50, 60 or 70 hours a week has to live in poverty.”

“Speaking as a millennial woman myself, my friends and I are often conflicted on how we can stay and thrive in Connecticut, a state we love, when neighboring states offer the essential policies young people and women need to succeed,” said Sarah Ganong, Political Director for Connecticut Working Families. “In New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, we wouldn’t have to worry about losing our incomes and independence if we become ill, get injured, or have a child. In New York, workers and the wider economy are lifted up by a $15 living wage. And now both Massachusetts and New York City are enforcing genuine pay equity with a ban on the prior salary question in job applications. If Connecticut wants to get ahead and compete with neighboring states, we need to pass these common-sense policies.”

“On this International Women’s Day, the women of Connecticut face significant inequities. Women are paid 79 cents to every dollar paid to men, experience sexual harassment in the workplace, earn an unlivable wage, and lack access to basic workplace supports such as paid family and medical leave,” said Catherine Bailey, Deputy Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. “Women can’t wait any longer for economic security—we need action now. We urge state lawmakers to pass legislation for paid family and medical leave and pay equity, to raise the minimum wage, and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.”

“As the federal government lags in addressing the needs of working families, Connecticut can lead the way by passing a comprehensive paid family leave law,” said Khadija Gurnah, Campaign Director with MomsRising. “Right now, far too many families have to cobble together vacation time and sick days to cover time away from work for caregiving, or make the horrible choice between caring for their families and earning a paycheck. Connecticut legislators must show their support for working families and pass this commonsense law.”

“As a young woman with student debt, this legislation would help me obtain a more secure future,” said Kindra Fontes-May, a young woman impacted by the wage gap/pay inequity. “Women like me would be able to overcome past prejudices and have a fairer chance at making a living wage. If we continue the current practice, we would have to relive past discrimination, and wage disparities between genders will continue to be an issue.”

“Paid Family and Medical Leave is not a luxury,” said Maggie Gardner, a breast cancer survivor. “It is a necessity. It is astonishing that Connecticut has the highest incident of breast cancer in our nation, but we lack basic protections like paid family and medical leave for women and their families in need.”

The press conference took place immediately before the start of the General Assembly’s Committee on Labor and Public Employees public hearing on Senate Bill 1, An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave, House Bill 5387, An Act Concerning Paid Family Medical Leave, Senate Bill 15, An Act Concerning Fair and Equal Pay for Work, and House Bill 5388, An Act Concerning a Fair Minimum Wage.

Senate Bill 1, An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave and House Bill 5387, An Act Concerning Paid Family Medical Leave

Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 5387 each propose to establish a system that provides critically needed earned family and medical leave benefits to individuals employed in Connecticut. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 5387 provide for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to qualifying employees, at 100 percent of salary up to a cap of $1000 per week.

The United States is very much in the minority of developed nations that do not explicitly provide employees with the ability to take such paid leave. Individual states, on the other hand, have the authority to require this benefit to be provided to employees. As with bills on this subject that have been offered over the past few legislative sessions, the paid salary replacement benefits provided for in Senate Bill 1 would be employee funded. An employee would contribute a very small amount of his or her pay—likely less than one half of one percent, but firmly capped at a half percent and only deducted from wages up to the federal Social Security threshold—into a fund administered by the State. Thereafter, in the event the employee needs to take family or medical leave for either a serious medical condition of his or her own or needs to care for either a family member suffering from such a serious medical condition or a new baby, he or she would be eligible for earned benefits out of the fund in a manner laid out in the bill.

According to the 2016 Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) report entitled “Implementing Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance [in] Connecticut” (the “Implementation Report”), “only 13 percent of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided short-term disability insurance.” According to the Implementation Report, for families with incomes below $25,000, 62.7 percent of leaves taken are uncompensated. While some Connecticut workers may be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), many Connecticut employees are ineligible for this unpaid benefit. Even for those that are eligible, they often do not take the leave because they simply cannot afford to go without income even for a short period of time.

Providing family and medical leave benefits is critical to the health of Connecticut children and families. The Implementation report found that “[74] percent of Connecticut children . . . live in households where all parents work.” A lack of paid family and medical leave means the parents of these 550,000 children are unlikely to have the ability to take time from work to care for these children without a severe financial loss. Time spent with newborn and young children is necessary for their health, making access to parental leave an important indicator of child well-being. The excellent 2014 Family Medical Leave Insurance Taskforce report submitted to this Committee (the “Taskforce Report”), states that “[s]ubstantial research has found negative associations for children of mothers who return to work shortly after childbirth, in particular to full-time work.” It has been found that when a mother takes at least 12 weeks of paid leave, the infant is “more likely to receive medical checkups, to breastfeed, and to get critical immunizations,” according to the Taskforce Report.

In addition to parental leave, a large, growing number of our constituents face the often overwhelming burden of caregiving for adult family members. With roughly 777,000 people over age 60 in our state, many workers are finding themselves caring for both children and aging parents. This extra caregiving burden can lead to a loss of more than $300,000 in wages and retirement savings for workers over the age of 50.

These are the realities of today’s workforce. There are many more working parents and working adult caregivers than in the past.

In addition to New York State and Washington State, three other states including our neighbors Rhode Island and New Jersey in addition to the District of Columbia provide paid family medical leave to their workers. New Jersey began providing 6 weeks of non-job-protected paid family leave benefits in 2009, in addition to the 26 weeks of paid medical leave it has been providing for decades. Rhode Island enacted 4 weeks of job-protected paid family leave benefits in 2013, in addition to the 30 weeks of paid medical leave it has been providing for decades.

Senate Bill 15, An Act Concerning Fair and Equal Pay for Equal Work, and House Bill 5386, An Act Concerning Various Pay Equity and Fairness Matters

Both Senate Bill 15 and House Bill 5386 are critically important measures to help close the wage gap here in the State of Connecticut. While there have been efforts in the past to combat this issue, here in Connecticut women are still earning 83 cents to every dollar that their male counterparts are. This results in an annual wage gap of nearly $11,000. The gender pay gap only increases in the case of Latino and African American women, the former earning 54 cents on the dollar and the latter 63 cents on the dollar compared to their white male counterparts.

The proposal prohibits:

  • employers from inquiring about a prospective employees previous wages
  • employers preventing employee about inquiring about another employees wages
  • employers from requiring employees sign waiver denying right to disclose wages
  • employers from inquiring or directing third party (head hunters) to disclose an employee’s previous salary history

The legislation also ensures seniority is not reduced for employees who take maternity leave or protected family and medical leave.

This legislation would be key to dropping the poverty rate of single, working mothers in the state, which is currently at 24.4 percent. It also will help many families who rely on two-parent incomes or households headed by women to sustain life here in Connecticut.

House Bill 5388, An Act Concerning a Fair Minimum Wage

House Bill 5388, An Act Concerning a Fair Minimum Wage, seeks to gradually increase the minimum wage in Connecticut from its current $10.10 in 2018 to $15.00 per hour, over the course of the next three years. Thereafter the wage would be indexed to rise at the rate of inflation.

Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut workers are struggling, each and every day, to support themselves and their families. According to December 2016 report by the Connecticut Low Wage Employer Advisory Board (the “Report”), at least 20 percent of Connecticut’s workforce—at least 336,000 workers—earn less than $15 an hour. In some of our poorest cities and towns, the percentages are far greater; in Hartford, for example, it is estimated that the majority of workers, 53 percent, earn less than that amount. Moreover, according to the Report, the sub-$15 workforce is disproportionately female, Black and Latino. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston that is referenced in the Report estimates that in our state 33.7 percent of female workers, 43.1 percent of Black workers, and 52.6 percent of Latino workers earn less than $15 an hour. Another study referenced in the Report paints a far starker picture when it comes to female workers in Connecticut: according to a study conducted jointly by the Economic Policy Institute and CT Voices for Children, women comprise 58.4 percent of Connecticut workers that would directly benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Connecticut has fallen behind the curve in enabling our residents to earn a living wage. Since 1979, the value of the state minimum wage has decreased despite an increase in the cost of living and employee productivity. A 2012 Connecticut Voices for Children report found that, though the minimum wage in Connecticut increased 184 percent in a little over three decades, from $2.91 in 1979 to $8.25 in 2012, the actual value of the minimum wage decreased by 9 percent. We recently increased the minimum wage to $10.10 in an effort to catch up with the rising cost of living, but a minimum wage of $10.10 still has less relative value than the minimum wage of $2.91 had in 1979. By taking this next step to increase the minimum wage to $15, we would be closer to catching up with the cost of living, allowing our low wage workers to support themselves and their families.

However, based on a balancing test between the needs of Connecticut citizens and the reasonable requirements to be placed on Connecticut employers, the Low Wage Employer Advisory Board, after almost a year of gathering information and testimony, recommended to this Committee that the ultimate level of the Connecticut minimum wage be $15 an hour, and that this increase from $10.10 be implemented gradually, over 5 years. Thus, the bill being heard today adopts this recommended approach, increasing the minimum wage to $15 dollars gradually. However, because time has passed since that recommendation was made, the increase in House Bill 5388 occurs over the next three years.

This gradual increase to $15 is also in keeping with other states and cities throughout the nation. New York State has already passed legislation—in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner—to incrementally raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2022 in the highest cost areas of the state, with fast food workers in New York City actually going up to $15 almost immediately, in 2018. California and Washington, D.C. also have enacted gradual increases to $15, as has the city of Seattle, Washington. Moreover, many other states, while not yet slated to go to $15, are above $10.10 already, and slated to go higher. Our neighbor Massachusetts currently has a minimum wage of $11.00, and Mayor Walsh of Boston is advocating strongly for the City of Boston to go up to $15. Oregon is slated to go up to $13.50 by 2022. Maine, Arizona and Colorado are slated to go up to $12.00 by 2020.

Gradually increasing Connecticut’s minimum wage would not hurt Connecticut’s overall economy and actually likely would have a positive effect on Connecticut’s overall economy. Nor would such a gradual rise in the minimum wage result in a decrease in employment throughout the state. The Report discusses evidence that:

  • Increasing the minimum wage will grow the Connecticut economy in ways that would broadly benefit the state and its residents;
  • Raising the minimum wage will create fiscal benefits and cost savings for employers;
  • Studies show that businesses will benefit from reduced turnover and costs of recruitment, increased productivity and efficiency, and increased profit from additional sales due to increased spending by low-income working families;
  • Historical increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market;
  • Though wage increases may incentivize automation, studies show that this creates just as many jobs as it replaces;
  • An increase in the minimum wage may result in additional state revenue from income and sales taxes while reducing spending for public assistance programs; and
  • Increased earnings and other benefits to businesses, workers, and consumers outweigh any negative effects of a minimum wage increase.