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House Labor bows to Senate, hears minimum wage bill with no path to $15



It would be much better to be on a path to $15,” said Alan Krinsky, the Senior Policy Analyst at the Economic Progress Institute.

Rhode Island Representative David Bennett (Democrat, District 20, Warwick) surprised House Labor Chair Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) when he announced that the bill the committee was going to hear wasn’t the bill he had originally had submitted, which would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

The bill as originally written would have provided a $1.50 increase for minimum wage workers by January 1, 2021, and put Rhode Island on a path, similar to that of Connecticut and Massachusetts, to a $15 minimum wage.

Instead, Bennett said he would be introducing a bill that matches the $1 increase passed last week in Senate Labor. Bennett apologized to Chair Williams for not having the new language for his bill as a Sub A. Bennett indicated that he hadn’t gotten the language of the bill from the Senate yet, and that House leadership had agreed that the new bill was likely to meet their approval.

And with that, the Fight for $15 in Rhode Island was effectively over this legislative season.

During the hearing for the bills, the usual well paid business lobbyists made their arguments against raising the minimum wage for Rhode Island’s most vulnerable workers.

Lobbyist Elizabeth Suever, who works for the law firm of Adler, Pollock and Sheehan, is paid $100,000 annually by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and an unknown amount from the Rhode Island Retail Federation to advocate against low wage workers, mostly women, receiving a living wage.

Lobbyist Christopher Carlozzi, representing the National Federation Of Independent Business (NFIB) is paid $10,500.00 a month to argue against a minimum wage increase that would benefit low-income working families.

Lobbyist Lenette Forry-Menard, representing the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association ($3166 monthly), the Rhode Island Hospitality Association ($25K annually) and the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce ($3k monthly) also argued against raising the minimum wage.

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Terrance Martiesian submitted written testimony from TONE (Theater Owners of New England) against raising the minimum wage. Martiesian is also taking money from the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s the written testimony from Terrance Martiesian and TONE:

Benjamin Branchaud from the Carpenters Union 330 spoke in favor of the original bill, but also, of course, supported the new bill:

John Wesley from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) spoke in favor of a path to $15. It’s a priority bill for the coalition, which they see as a women’s health bill.

Alan Krinsky is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Economic Progress Institute. He spoke in favor of the bill. “It would be much better to be on a path to $15,” said Krinsky.

George Nee of the AFL-CIO spoke in favor of the bill, lamenting the loss of a path to $15.

Kathy McCormick, a survivor of domestic abuse, spoke about the importance of a real, living wage to help her and her children escape poverty and abuse.

Paige Clausius-Parks, policy analyst at Rhode Island Kids Count, spoke in favor of raising the minimum wage:

Here’s the rest of the testimony against raising the minimum wage, including Heidi Durand-Lenz, owner operator of Bow chika Wow Town, a dog daycare in Warwick, arguing against a $15 minimum wage and Steve Arthurs, President and CEO of Rhode Island Food Dealers Association.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.