Democrats push for higher minimum wage, paid medical leave - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Democrats push for higher minimum wage, paid medical leave

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Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing to further increase Connecticut's minimum wage and enact a paid family medical leave system. (WFSB) Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing to further increase Connecticut's minimum wage and enact a paid family medical leave system. (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing to further increase Connecticut's minimum wage and enact a paid family medical leave system.

Democratic Senate President Martin Looney said Thursday a "sufficient minimum wage" is important for thousands of families. Meanwhile, he says they shouldn't "face the prospect of economic ruin" when forced to take unpaid time off to care for loved ones.

"Raising the minimum wage is not a luxury, its now a mere convenience," Looney said.

The two bills are working their way through the General Assembly.

It's a critical issue for thousands of Connecticut families, those who earn minimum wage, like Madeline Guzman, who juggles two jobs. She's a custodian and a home attendant.

"It's hard to make ends meet, it’s very hard,” Guzman said.

Connecticut's minimum wage recently rose to $10.10 an hour. Under this proposal, it would increase gradually to $15 an hour by January 2022.

Business groups have opposed a higher wage, arguing it could worsen the state's unemployment rate.

A December report found at least 20 percent of Connecticut's workforce, or at least 336,000 workers, earn less than $15 an hour.

Those who make minimum wage fall below the poverty line, and many need state services to survive.

Dave Rutigliano is a republican lawmaker who owns restaurants. He's against the proposal.

"Profit margins are low, the cost of food is low. There's only so much I can charge for a hamburger. There's only so much I can charge,” said Rutigliano (D-Trumbull).

The other issue is family leave. Connecticut was the first state to pass it, allowing 16 weeks.

The bill would require workers to pay in. They would get 100 percent of their pay up to 12 weeks, but there would be a $1,000 cap.

Elizabeth Lane moved here from New York, where paid leave was just passed. She's having a baby.

"The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't offer this benefit,” Lane said.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.