Op-ed: the Minimum Wage Should be a Stepping Stone, Not Quicksand

Back • March 5, 2012 • Uncategorized

The New Haven Register recently published an op-ed by Connecticut Voices' Senior Policy Fellow Wade Gibson, who called for an increase in the state's minimum wage to help boost the state's economy and improve mobility for low-wage workers:

In Connecticut, it is an article of faith that if you work hard, you should earn enough to be in the middle class, or at least enough to work your way into the middle class.

Yet today, Connecticut workers at the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour make so little that they could not pull a family of three out of poverty if they work full time, 52 weeks per year.

Unfortunately, low-wage jobs … are the likely careers for more and more people in Connecticut.

The minimum wage is not just for teenagers with summer jobs; it is for adults working full time or nearly so. In fact, 82 percent of those who would benefit from an increase are 20 or older.

For these workers and their children to earn a spot in the middle class, the minimum wage must rise and be a stepping stone, rather than quicksand.

As our recent report on the minimum wage concluded, this increase would improve wages for workers in growing sectors of the Connecticut economy. The Connecticut Department of Labor projects that the three occupations projected to have the most job openings between 2008 and 2018 — cashiers, waiters and waitresses, and retail salespersons — are also the most likely to pay at or near minimum wage. The 10 largest occupations in which at least a quarter of workers earn wages below $9.75 per hour account for a third (34%) of the state's workforce and many are among the fastest growing job sectors in the state.