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Connecticut jumps ahead of Massachusetts, as 4 of 6 New England states boost their minimum wages

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (center), with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (center left), announce the state's minimum wage in 2024 would reach $15.69 an hour, at a press conference on Sept. 18, 2023.
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Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (center), with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (center left), announce the state's minimum wage in 2024 would reach $15.69 an hour, at a press conference on Sept. 18, 2023.

Minimum wages go up in four of the six New England states on January 1.

For years, Massachusetts has led the minimum wage race in New England. That ends in 2024, when Connecticut's rate — now tied to inflation — goes from $15 an hour to $15.69.

At a September press conference, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, estimated the increase will mean a direct raise for 10% of Connecticut workers.

And it'll put upward pressure on wages for others, Gov. Ned Lamont said, as many businesses have to go well over the minimum to attract employees.

"You're going to have to pay a little more to make it worth it," Lamont said.

The minimum wage in Massachusetts is holding steady at $15 an hour, with no scheduled increases on the books.

Rates in Maine ($14.15), Rhode Island ($14) and Vermont ($13.67) all increase on Jan. 1.

New Hampshire's rate has long been stuck at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, last raised in 2009.

While proposals to increase Massachusetts' minimum wage have not advanced in the past year, a coalition of groups is pushing for a ballot question to get rid of the state's lower minimum wage for tipped workers.

Employers are supposed to make up the difference between the $6.75 rate and the state's $15 minimum wage, but studies have found confusion and logistical hurdles to this happening.

Another proposal would boost the state's lower rate for some farm workers.

At a Massachusetts legislative hearing this fall, advocates pointed out what many in the state don't know about minimum wage rules.

"Fifteen dollars an hour for virtually everybody except farm workers, who get $8 an hour," said Bill Newman, a lawyer with the Massachusetts ACLU. "That's the law."

There are another set of farm workers, those in the United State with federal visas, who are entitled to a federal prevailing wage topping $16 an hour, attorney and Western New England University law professor Claudia Quintero told lawmakers.

But those protections do not apply to farm workers who are year-round residents of Massachusetts, she said.

"Many of the workers are seasonal," Quintero said. "And many struggle with basic necessities during the winter months."

Quintero, who leads the Fairness for Farmworkers Coalition, noted these workers also have no overtime protections.

Both issues are addressed in pending legislation.

The state Farm Bureau opposes the bill because of the overtime changes, but is open to doing away with lower minimum wage, saying most farms pay much more.

A sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Adam Gomez, of Springfield, said the proposal does not currently have momentum on Beacon Hill.

"The conversation is still ongoing and moving. There's no dead-set kind of moving forward that we're going to see any kind of traction with the Legislature on this bill," Gomez said in an interview. "But we want to make sure that were still advocating for the ... voices of the voiceless."

Gomez acknowledged these are not easy times for farm owners given this year's flooding. But he noted the state has provided millions of dollars in relief, and wants to make sure that aid also reaches agriculture's lowest-paid workers.

NEPM's Elizabeth Román contributed to this report.

Sam Hudzik has overseen local news coverage on New England Public Media since 2013. He manages a team of about a dozen full- and part-time reporters and hosts.