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February 9, 2024

Labor committee members at odds over sick leave, minimum wage proposals

HBJ Photo | Skyler Frazer Members of the General Assembly's Labor and Public Employees Committee discuss proposals during the opening week of the 2024 legislative session.

Just a few days into Connecticut’s 2024 legislative session, Democrat and Republican members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee are already at odds over proposals related to paid family leave, minimum wage to tipped workers and expanded unemployment benefits.

Democratic members of the Labor Committee re-introduced several legislative proposals that were pitched last year but ultimately didn’t pass, most notably a plan to expand Connecticut’s paid sick leave law to include all workers in the state. Currently, the state’s paid sick leave program only applies to companies with more than 50 workers. 

A similar proposal died on the House floor in 2023, after passing in the Senate.

“It would provide paid sick days to all Connecticut workers in the amount of up to 40 hours,” state Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) said during the labor committee’s first meeting of the session.

Republicans on the committee expressed concern that expanding paid sick leave would be a burden to small businesses in the state.

“You have an employer- and employee-based contract — it's a private contract between those parties,” state Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott) said during the meeting. “Every time the legislature interjects itself into that private relationship, we’re up-ending the freedom of those parties to engage in commerce.”

Kushner, who co-chairs the labor committee, also introduced another proposal Democrats tried to pass last year: eliminating the lower minimum wage for hourly employees who earn tips, such as bartenders, waiters and other workers.

A third proposal from Democrats would give unemployment benefits to employees on strike.

Along party line votes, with Democrats for and Republicans against, all three proposals were approved to be drafted into bills. Hearings will take place on the proposals before they’re ultimately brought up for vote.

The committee did have unanimous consensus on at least one proposal, though: expanding the state’s family medical leave act to include non-certified school employees such as janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and more. These non-certified staff currently aren’t included in the act, but the labor committee has had bipartisan support to expand benefits to them.

By voice vote, the committee unanimously approved that proposal to be drafted into a bill.

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