DeLauro: Raise the federal minimum wage now

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents a part of Shelton, wants to increase the federal minimum wage.

About 90,000 Connecticut workers now earn the minimum wage, which in this state goes from $8.25 an hour to $8.70 an hour on Jan. 1.

The federal minimum wage currently is $7.25 an hour and has not been increased in four years.

DeLauro recently joined with low-wage workers and Bill Villano, executive director of Connecticut Workforce Alliance, to call for upping the federal minimum wage during an event in New Haven.

“The national minimum wage in America is long overdue for a raise,” said DeLauro, a Democrat in her 12th term. “Its failure to keep pace with inflation continues to hurt our economy and hard-working families who have seen their incomes stagnate even as prices — on everything from gas, food, college, to health care — have increased.”

States and, in some cases, cities and counties can set their own minimum wage higher than the federal one, depending on local laws.

Purchasing power is declining

The federal minimum wage used to be equal to about half of average wages, but today is barely a third, according to DeLauro. Its purchasing power has been dropping steadily since 1968 and, adjusted for inflation, now is lower than it was in 1956.

If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation during the last 40 years, it would be $10.55 an hour, DeLauro said.

At the current national rate, a year of full-time work comes out to $14,500 a year. For a single mother with two children, that is about $3,600 below the poverty line.

Women make up nearly two out of three workers making the minimum wage. Increasing the minimum wage is also a major component of “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families,” an initiative that DeLauro and other Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives launched in mid-2013.

Goes up to $9 in CT in 2015

In Connecticut, a law was passed to increase the state’s minimum wage as part of a two-step process. It will go from the current $8.25 an hour to $8.70 an hour on Jan. 1, 2014, and then to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said while he would like to see the minimum wage increased nationally, “I also think Connecticut needs to lead the way in helping working families.”

DeLauro is pleased Connecticut has a higher minimum wage than on the federal level. “I am proud of Connecticut for moving in the right direction and increasing the minimum wage,” she said. “It is a good step, but we still have more to do. It is long past time to get this done and ensure everyone can make a decent paycheck for a hard day’s work.”

Shelton has two members of Congress

The city of Shelton is divided between the Third District, represented by DeLauro, and the Fourth District, represented by fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes

DeLauro lives in New Haven and was first elected to Congress in 1990.