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    Saturday, June 10, 2023

    State’s minimum wage will reach $15 an hour Thursday

    Connecticut’s minimum wage will rise from $14 an hour to $15 an hour on Thursday, June 1, the fifth minimum-wage hike since Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a 2019 bill that scheduled increases every 11 months.

    Before the first of the five increases, the state’s minimum wage was $10.10 an hour.

    “This is a fair, modest increase, and the money earned will be spent right back into our own economy and support local businesses,” Lamont said Thursday in an announcement reminding people of the latest bump in the minimum wage.

    What hasn’t changed over the past four years is the “subminimum wage” employers of tipped employees ― those working in service jobs in hotels and restaurants and as bartenders ― are required to pay. Employers are allowed to credit some of their employees’ tips toward their obligation to pay the minimum wage.

    In Connecticut, the subminimum wage for service employees, such as waiters and waitresses, will remain $6.38 an hour and for bartenders $8.23 an hour. Employers can take a “tip credit” ― the difference between the subminimum wage and the minimum wage ― so long as the employee earns the minimum wage with tips. As of June 1, employers can take tip credits of $8.62 an hour for waiters and waitresses and $6.77 an hour for bartenders.

    Employers are required to pay more, if necessary, to ensure workers receive minimum wage.

    A bill approved in March by the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee and awaiting further consideration would eliminate the subminimum wage and establish one minimum wage across the board. It would ensure that tipped workers are paid minimum wage without relying on tips from customers to supplement a subminimum wage.

    The committee’s eight Democratic members voted for the bill while its four Republican members voted against it.

    Testifying at a public hearing on the bill, Dante Bartolomeo, commissioner of the state Department of Labor, noted that the 2019 law that increased the minimum wage for most workers did not benefit tipped workers. She also said the department was concerned that an unintended consequence of the bill could be that customers tip less, reducing tipped workers’ wages.

    Representatives of labor unions supported the bill, with SEIU District 1199 New England testifying that about 70,000 tipped workers in Connecticut’s restaurant and hospitality industries were left behind by the 2019 law. Union reps said that since 70% of the state’s tipped workers are women and 36% are people of color, passage of the bill would address racial and gender inequities.

    Opposition to the bill came from restaurant owners and managers who said it would raise labor costs that could be passed along to customers and lead to fewer jobs.

    According to testimony, Connecticut is among 43 states that have a subminimum wage. The seven that don’t are Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

    Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit seeking to end subminimum wages and increase wages and working conditions in the U.S. service sector, said there is national momentum for change. In November 2022, she said, 76% of voters in Washington, D.C., voted to raise the wage for tipped workers from $5.35 an hour to the district’s full minimum wage of $16.10 an hour.

    Under Connecticut’s 2019 law, future changes in the minimum wage will be tied to the federal employment cost index for wages and salaries of all civilian workers. On Oct. 15 each year, starting this year, the labor commissioner will announce the change in the minimum wage that takes effect the following Jan. 1.

    The employment cost index is a measure of changes in the cost of employees to employers over time, as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor. Connecticut will use the index for the 12-month period from July 1 to June 30 of the preceding year in determining the change in the state’s minimum wage.


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