City Council Gives Nod To $10.10 An Hour A Year Early

Council President Mike Trueworthy’s resolution on a $10.10 minimum wage for city employees not covered by labor agreements or other contracts won a 10-5 vote at the Common Council April 9th.

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.

Remembering Rev. King and 4/4/68 at MLK Park Monument

New Britain’s Mary McLeod Bethune Club (MMBC) observed the anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 5th — a memorial  event  club members have organized for most of the 46 years since the civil rights leader was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

CCSU Anthropology Professor, Dr Evelyn Harris, the featured speaker at the King Monument Memorial held at the MLK city park at the corner of Stanley Street and MLK Boulevard, told a small gathering that New Britain’s King monument was one of the first memorials of its kind in the country. Participating in the program were MMBC President Chery Niccolls, NBPD Officer Marcus Burris, Master of Ceremonies; Music Soloist Linda Vickers with Marzell Jackson laying the wreath at the monument. Ward 3 Alderwoman Shirley Black and NAACP President Ron Davis shared remarks at the monument.

Other speakers, including longtime Club President Janice Edwards, recalled that the city’s King monument was originally located at East Main and MLK Boulevard on a traffic island, a target of frequent vandalism and even visits from local KKK adherents.  The Bethune Club organized residents to stare down the Klan nonviolently when they showed up and began the effort for a better site.

Alton Brooks, a leader in the effort to establish MLK Park, with New Britain’s finest.

With leaders such as Edwards, Alton Brooks and the late former Alderwoman Connie Wilson Collins pushing city government, the little corner park for the King monument was established further up the road. Today inlaid bricks recognize donors from the community who contributed to make MLK Park possible.

Police Officer Marcus Burris and MMBC President Chery Niccolls

 Democratic District Leader Mario Santos and Board of Education member Merrill Gay participated.

Duane Hinkson with sons Dillon and Devon and MMB Club Member Janice Edwards