By Caity Ross
President Obama spoke on Wednesday at CCSU about his proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. Students, staff and the public flocked to Kaiser Hall awaiting the speech, and offered a variety of opinions on the minimum wage increase, income inequality, and how this change will impact the country.
A line started forming around 6 a.m. Wednesday outside of Kaiser Hall for the seat by place in line event. This line grew until it stretched around the dormitories and up towards Kaiser Parking Lot. The long line paired with the 25 degree weather didn’t seem to quiet anyone on the issues President Obama planned on addressing.
“Minimum wage families are finding it very hard to make it. They have to take care of their children,” said 62-year-old Mario Santos, a veteran and New Britain resident. Santos added that these families deserve a chance to improve their qualities of life, and believes the increase in minimum wage will aid them.
Many agreed on the difficulty living off of the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25. Sean Flowers, 19, of Cromwell, agrees that as a McDonald’s employee, making the CT minimum wage, he could use a little more money in his pocket. A majority of people in attendance agreed with the President’s proposal to increase the minimum wage.
“Change needs to happen,” explained Ann Malcolm, a mother in attendance. “By increasing a deserved wage, it will create more money for spending, which will create jobs.”
President Obama and supporters of the minimum wage increase hope to reduce income inequality and uneven distribution of wealth. However, on Wednesday, many people felt more would have to be done to change this disparity.
“Inequality in the U.S. is ridiculous and the gap is tremendous,” said Noah Corey, a freshman commuter student of CCSU. “I don’t know if this will fix it. More needs to be done.” Others agreed, adding that regulations and policies on the wealthiest end of the country’s income will also have to be created in order to spread the wealth more evenly among all citizens.
“Big corporations and CEOs are making millions. I don’t see why there is an issue with them reducing their pay a little and sharing it with the poor,” said Santos, as he shivered in the cold.
“More regulation needs to be done on the richer end, not just giving more money to the poor,” said Corey.
While many agreed that increasing the minimum wage is a necessity for workers to live comfortably, some vocalized their opposition to it.
Jennifer Gargiulo, a senior commuter, explained that the minimum wage increase would not affect her because she already is getting paid $10 at her current job. She started at minimum wage and worked her way up over years. “Now it feels like all my hard work was for nothing,” she says as newcomers will be making the same wage that took her years to get.
Brett Boucheri, a senior at CCSU, views the minimum wage increase as a luxury rather than a necessity. “Minimum wage jobs are really for students, they’re part time. If they earn a raise, then they should get it,” he said.
Many also saw unemployment, tax bracket changes and consumer price raises as a result of the minimum wage increase. CCSU sophomore, Victoria Richards, said that the people of America are suffering from “income slavery;” a slave to what money you can make.
In his speech, the President strongly encouraged the increase of the minimum wage. “If you work 40 hours a week, you should not live in poverty here in Connecticut or other states.”
Student and visitor reactions following the speech were extremely positive.
Julie Lavoie, a CCSU junior, felt the president swayed her opinion on the minimum wage increase. “After the points he made, I felt very positive about his policy. He was very persuasive,” she said. She also stated that the experience was well worth the wait in the cold.
Many attendees said the President’s speech legitimized their opinion on the minimum wage.
Sam Stigler, CCSU Freshman, said “I was for it before the speech, and for it even more after.” Stigler found the speech very informative, but wishes that President Obama started the infamous CCSU chant.
Amidst the excitement, media spotlight and political opinion, the future is still unsure regarding the fate of minimum wage and income equality in the United States. Corey claims that it is “up in the air how the quarter will fall.”