FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – President Barack Obama brought his drive to “Give America a Raise” to a Nutmeg State crowd at Central Connecticut State University on Wednesday afternoon.
“At the top, we’re doing better than ever. But average wages have not budged,” Obama said to a crowd of more than 3,000 people, including many college students. “Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up.”
Last month, Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Democratic leadership introduced a bill that would raise Connecticut’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017. The bill passed through the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee on Tuesday. It will now move on to the full state Senate.
“I absolutely believe, as you do, that if you work 40 hours a week you should not be living in poverty in Connecticut, or in any other of the 50 states in America,” Malloy said told the crowd at Central Connecticut on Wednesday.
The state’s minimum wage rose to $8.70 per hour this past Jan. 1, and is set to increase to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015. Malloy’s bill would add another 15 cents to next January’s increase, and would add two more incremental increases in 2016 and 2017 to bring the minimum to $10.10 per hour.
“This is important both to reduce our state’s income gap — the second largest in the nation — and to retain young workers who are on the verge of leaving the state because wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living,” Sal Luciano, executive director of labor union Council 4 AFCME, said in a press release before the president’s visit.
Obama’s visit to New Britain was part of his push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 as well. The jump would be even larger at the federal level, where the minimum wage is more than $1 per hour less than Connecticut’s at $7.25.
The move would raise wages for more than 28 million people in the U.S., including 200,000 in Connecticut and 1 million in New England, Obama said.
"Raising the minimum wage also makes economic sense. When a working family has more money, that money is spent on things they otherwise would have to go without," U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District) said in a letter to supporters. "That creates demand which helps our businesses grow and hire more workers."
Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Gov. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island and Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont also joined the president, Malloy and Connecticut’s Congressional delegation in New Britain. The four governors and Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire have all signed a pact to work to raise the minimum wage in all New England states.
A new Quinnipiac University poll found that 71 percent of Connecticut voters agree with raising the state’s minimum wage. Of those, 42 percent agreed with raising the hourly rate to $10.10, while 20 percent felt the rate should be even higher.
“What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, know a little economic security, and pass down some hope and optimism to their kids,” Obama said. “And that’s worth fighting for.”
The full video of the appearance can be watched above, courtesy of the White House and the Office of Gov. Dannel Malloy.