April 30, 2018

CT business coalition slams “workplace fairness” bills

HBJ file photo
HBJ file photo
The State Capitol in Hartford.

A coalition of Connecticut business groups on Monday slammed several workplace bills they say would harm the state's economic potential.

As the legislative session deadline nears on May 9, state lawmakers could vote on a handful of proposals that would add new workplace mandates such as increasing paid family and medical leave, expanding paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage and overhauling workplace harassment measures.

Business officials recently pushed back against the timing of some of the proposals, which they say would raise administrative costs as the state attempts to lure more businesses to the area.

"While well-intended, these proposals are being considered at a time when Connecticut is still struggling to compete with other states for investment, economic growth, and job creation," CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan said.

The legislation, the group says, especially hurts small business owners that will be forced to raise prices, cut hours or reduce their workforce.

Meanwhile, proponents of "workplace fairness bills" argue modernized workplace mandates are crucial, especially given the national conversations surrounding inequity in the workplace.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who pledged a "workplace fairness" agenda during his final State of the State address, has cited that women in Connecticut are paid on average 82 cents for every $1 a man earns, with a wider gap for women of color.

But Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, said the proposals will cause distress among brick and mortar retailers, who are fending off nationwide online retailers. Pesce criticized the proposal calling to expand paid sick leave, saying it would destabilize Connecticut's "fragile" economy.

Business advocates also criticized a proposed minimum wage increase.

House Bill 5388 would increase the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 over the next three years. It would also tie future minimum wage hikes to the rate of inflation.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Connecticut chairwoman Wendy Traub, who also owns Torrington-based construction company Hemlock Directional Boring questioned why businesses would move to Connecticut if the new mandates were imposed.

"And if you add in a $15 minimum wage for employees with no skills or experience, other costly labor mandates, and consider Connecticut's very high taxes, no business will move here," Traub said. "Those already here may flee. That only hurts all the state's residents and its economy."

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