Zambia and the $15 minimum wage in Connecticut

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Two years ago, my family and I moved to Connecticut from Lusaka, Zambia.

It was a startling adjustment, and not only because we arrived in February, moving from 80 degree weather into the frigid temperatures of a Connecticut winter.

We were well prepared for this monumental change, but what was extremely disconcerting to me were the things that were unchanged, particularly regarding those who struggle with extreme poverty.

In Zambia, countless human beings were unable to achieve even the basic necessities of life – food, shelter, medicine. People who worked long, excruciating hours simply could not earn enough to provide for their families. While we helped provide what we could, it was heartbreaking to watch loved ones suffer – to watch children die because their parents, no matter how hard they worked, could not earn enough to pay for proper medical care.

This was a daily reality in Zambia. With great sorrow, I learned it is also a reality for far too many in Connecticut.

A person earning Connecticut’s current minimum wage of $10.10 per hour cannot support the basic necessities for a Connecticut family. Low wages keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty. A person working full-time at a minimum-wage job makes $1,750.67 per month. The average monthly cost of an apartment in Hartford is more than $1,500. This leaves entirely insufficient income for other basic needs such as food, transportation and clothing, much less for medical care for health emergencies.

Like those stuck in a system of poverty in Zambia, our neighbors in Connecticut who earn minimum wage are victimized by our system of economic injustice.

Our low minimum wage is an issue of deep concern for people of faith, as well as for anyone who cares for basic human rights. People should be able to earn enough to cover the basic necessities of life.

Fortunately, the Connecticut legislature is now considering a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $15 in five yearly increments of $1 each. Although a $15 minimum wage is still extremely low for those who are trying to support a family, passage of the $15 wage bill would go far to lift the quality of life for low-income workers.

Please ask your state representative and state senator to support a $15 wage for Connecticut.

The Rev. Kari Nicewander is senior minister at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford.

What do you think?

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