New state minimum wage in place

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Some Connecticut workers may have noticed a bump in their paycheck over the past few weeks.

On Jan. 1 the state’s minimum wage increased 75 cents to $8.70 an hour. It is set to increase again to $9 on Jan. 1, 2015. 

On the national level the merits of raising the minimum wage is currently being debated, with proponents saying it will increase the quality of life for people and opponents saying it will hurt business.

Dunkin’ Donuts Human Resources Manager Jorge Flamengo, who oversees stores in Naugatuck and Prospect, said the increase has been a positive thing for his stores.

“I think employee moral will go up because they are going to be paid more,” Flamengo said.

Flamengo said many of the employees were already making the state’s new minimum wage, but the increase helped those who were not.

According to Flamengo the payroll will go up slightly, but will not affect the way any of the restaurants do business.

“If the economy hadn’t picked up I would say it would hurt us. As it is now, we will be OK,” Flamengo said.

Flamengo said even though the company might see a small increase in costs, the prices will not increase because of the minimum wage increase.

“I don’t think we would ever do that to customers. If anything the burden is on manager to increase business by managing and giving customer the best services and quality,” Flamengo said.

Lori Pelletier, executive secretary-treasurer of the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said the increased minimum wage will benefit both workers and the state.

“If people have more money in pocket, people have more money to pay taxes and more money to spend,” Pelletier said.

Pelletier said the country is based on a consumer-driven economy. By raising the minimum wage, she said, there are more consumers.

“It gives them more earning power. It makes perfect sense. The more money you put in consumers pockets, the more money they have to help drive the economy. This will give them the ability to take part in the economy more,” Pelletier said.

Pelletier dismissed the argument that raising minimum wage could hurt business, saying the lawmakers who are making that argument have said the same thing for decades.

“Anytime we’re looking to put more income into workers pockets they cry the sky is falling. The sky hasn’t fallen yet,” Pelletier said.

Peter Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, which opposed the legislation, said raising the minimum wage also creates an incentive for companies to downsize.

“Companies are not going to pay people they do not feel are worth the minimum rate of pay, so ultimately this does lead to fewer people being employed,” Gioia said.

Flamengo said that Dunkin’ Donuts has had to increase prices in the past when the price of milk or coffee increased significantly. However, though the minimum wage increase will have an impact on business, Flamengo wants to make sure it is not one the average customer will notice.

“Does it affect us? Sure. But we are definitely not going to put this on the customer,” Flamengo said.

The Republican American contributed to this article.

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