WESTPORT, Conn. — A proposal by President Barack Obama to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 by 2017 is garnering support in Westport.
Breanna Brandon, manager at Java Coffee & Cafe on Church Street— where employees earn more than the state’s minimum wage of $8.70— said raising the federal minimum wage is the right thing to do.
“No one should have to be working for less than $8 an hour when they are trying to support their families and pay bills,” Brandon said. “In order to have good staff, you need to pay them well."
Brandon is originally from Idaho, where she worked at one of Java’s five cafes. There, the state’s minimum wage is in line with the federal level. Even though she said the cost of living is less there, $7.25 an hour was not enough for someone to live comfortably.
Connecticut's minimum wage rose from $8.25 to $8.70 per hour this past Jan. 1. By next January, it is set to increase to $9 per hour. Last month, Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Democratic leadership introduced a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017. The bill passed through the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee and is pending approval by the state Senate.
Before coming to Connecticut to lead the Westport store, Brandon said she knew she wanted to pay her employees a minimum of $10 an hour— something she was excited about. But when she arrived in the state, she quickly realized $10 an hour wasn’t as much as she thought it would be.
“Not only is the cost of living higher, but taxes out here are so much more higher than I thought,” she said. “I’m always talking with my employees and asking how things are working out for them, and they say it can be difficult. I can only imagine how hard it must be for people making less than $10.”
Earlier this month, Obama visited Central Connecticut State University in New Britain to push for raising the federal level.
“I like the fact that this is something being talked about,” Brandon said. “I hope it happens. The bottom line is, it’s what people deserve.”
Like Brandon, Java employee Cozette More— a senior at Fairfield Warde High School— said she 100 percent supports raising the federal minimum wage.
Although she doesn’t live on her own, More said she works two jobs in order to make good money.
“Almost half my paycheck goes to taxes,” she said. “If I was living on my own, working a $10 an hour job wouldn’t be enough to live comfortably, between gas, groceries and other expenses. So there’s no way I would be able to do it working for $7.25 an hour. That’s just ridiculous.”