Category Archives: Placed

Minimum Wage Increase: What the people think

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.”

Time for a change – Letter to the Editor

As a student senator, I recognize that all 105 clubs and organizations that rely on us for funding are all financially stressed. Over the past few years, our student government has continuously demanded that student organizations find more ways to do things with less funding and fewer resources. This year, every club had received funding cuts across the board. I remember on my first year on the senate we had funded club base budgets at $408,000 for the 2012-2013 academic year. However, this year we have only spent $355,000 on clubs based budgets. Our SGA has spent $55,000 less on clubs this year than we spent in the previous year.

                  I want to say that I completely understand the financial struggles that each and every club is going through. As a member of the finance committee, I have firsthand knowledge of the everyday struggles that clubs on our college campus face. As a President of a club myself, I know how frustrating it can get when dealing with all of the financial regulations, requirements, and conditions that our student government places on clubs.

No particular person is to blame. Nobody is at fault. I personally feel there is enough blame to go around – myself included. I am willing to admit that as a member of the finance committee I made mistakes. However, I want to make things better for everyone. I want to make sure that every club’s needs are met. That is why I am speaking out today.

I have been upset for some time at the blatant waste that has been occurring within our student government. When I was growing up, I learned that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. Overall, I don’t feel that our student government has done such a good job of living up to that moral standard.

Over winter break, the student government held its annual retreat. One of my requirements as a senator is to attend the retreat. I could see the ocean from my hotel room. We stayed on an island in Rhode Island. However, I was told over and over again that our retreat would be relatively inexpensive. However, I learned a month after the retreat that the true cost of the retreat was over $13,000. This was paid for with your student activity fees.

A few weeks later, at the winter club fair – my clubs table was right next to the SGA table. At the SGA table they were handing out tee shirts, hats, scarves and other promotional items. My club had no promotional items to hand out. My club was denied funding for promotional items because ‘it was a luxury.’ I am not making this up – this is what we were told. Why it is considered a luxury for my club to have promotional items, but not the SGA?

Last year, over 20 organizations asked for funding for tee shirts in their base budget requests. Every club was denied. However, everybody elected to the senate received a free tee shirt (I refuse to wear my SGA shirt around campus because I feel it is wrong to tell every club that they can’t have clothing for their members even though SGA members received free tee shirts for our organization).

It is time for a change. Our SGA has given itself many luxuries that we’ve denied to everyone else. JFK once said, “if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” It is in that spirit that I am writing this letter. This week marks the start of the base budgeting process. Reach out to your elected representatives. Tell them that the 105 clubs and organizations deserve better. I write this letter to the editor in the hope that I can change things for the better. However, I can’t do this alone. I need your help and your support.

 

Bobby Berriault

SGA Senator

CCSU: A Political Stage

By Caity Ross

Central Connecticut State University became the stage for political protest Wednesday afternoon during a visit from President Obama.

Although the President arrived to give a speech about raising minimum wage, protestors of different causes came seeking his attention and the attention of the media.

The eye grabbing blue and yellow Ukrainian flags seemed to bleed into one as their line of protestors grew with the line of people waiting to see the President. They chanted, “Ukraine has not yet died,” in Ukrainian and waved signs reading “DEMOCRACY FOR UNKRAINE.”

“We are here because it is important that the Ukraine remains a sovereign nation,” Julie Nesteruk of Wethersfield said. “I am here because treaties and promises are being broken, and our country is being redrawn by Russia.”

The crisis in Ukraine has been developing since the end of 2013, but Ukraine has been in crisis since its beginning. The country separated from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has had a national identity issue since. In recent days, crises sparked after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich decided to back out of a landmark trade deal with the European Union for a $15 billion bailout from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

The deal would have opened doors for Ukraine to join the EU and the Western world. Protests began immediately and the resignation of President Yanukovich was demanded. Anti-protest legislation was then signed into law by Yanukovich, banning all forms of public protests — violence broke out.

“People have died doing what we’re doing here,” Nesteruk said. “We’re here because the corrupt governments under the arm of Yanukovich and under the arm of Putin silence the voices of the people.”

The crisis in Ukraine grew at the end of February when Ukrainian officials reported Russian military taking control of airports in Crimea, an autonomous, pro-Russian republic in southeastern region of Ukraine. The number of Russian troops violated the Budapest Memorandum which made an agreement between Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine that no threats or force were to be taken against the integrity or political freedom of Ukraine. Pro-Ukrainian’s feel Russia is trying to spread its arm back into the country and convince Crimea to join it.

“[Putin] claims he’s there for the protection of the Russian speaking citizens,” said Nesteruk in disbelief. She had been chosen as the spokeswoman for their cause on this day, her voice carried over the crowd and the emotion behind each word was shared throughout her fellow protestors. “What have the Ukrainians done that protection of their own citizens from them is necessary?”

Russian parliament granted President Putin the authority to use military action in Ukraine but he stated, he has “no intention to fight the Ukrainian people.”

“We are here because we are a free, sovereign country and the only way we can establish that is with the help of the United States government, and with the help of the European Union, and with the help of all those who advocate for democracy and human rights,” Nesteruk said. In agreement with the protesters on either side of her, Nesteruk compared Putin to a modern-day Hitler, seeing his presence in Crimea as an act of oppression, control and violence. She feels Obama must use more than “strong words” when dealing with Putin’s Russia.

Since Wednesday, the United States government has promised a $1 billion loan and recovery experts to the Ukrainian government. Lawmakers in Crimea have voted in favor of leaving Ukraine for Russia, and will be putting it to a regional vote in 10 days. Oleksandr Turchinov, the acting Unkrainian president, and the western part of Ukraine oppose the leave, calling Crimea an integral part of the country.

President Obama stated that, “in 2014 we are well beyond the days when boarders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.” On Thursday Obama met with Putin and stated that “Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Putin stands by his authority to protect Russian speaking citizens within Ukraine saying, “Russia cannot ignore the calls for help from the eastern and southeastern Ukraine.”

The US and EU have froze the assets of Yanukovich, and sanctions have been drawn up against Russian and Ukrainian officials, as well as others that are responsible for or complicit in threatening Ukrainian freedom. Russia and Ukraine refuse to budge from their opinions on the matter.

Also in attendance, their numbers rivaling the Ukrainian protestors at one point, were protestors of the Keystone XL pipeline. The issue began in 2012 when TransCanada Corporation proposed a 1,179 mile, 36 inch diameter, crude oil pipeline extension to the already existing pipeline which would begin in Alberta, Canada and end in Cushing, Oklahoma.

“We need to keep the carbon in the ground, we need to find alternative energy sources and develop them,” said Jerry LaPlante, a retired science teacher and resident of Suffield. Protestors feel the Keystone XL pipeline will add a tremendous amount of pollution and CO2 in the world, doing nothing to wean America off its dependence on fossil fuel and destructive energy uses.

“The pipeline will not only bring tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, spreading more oil everywhere, but the oil will be exported anyway,” said LaPlante. “The last thing we need to do is export more oil.”

Supporters of the Keystone XL extension argue it will create jobs in America and produce enough oil to displace the amount imported to sustain the 15 million barrels used daily in America. They argue the extension is the safest way to transport the oil and will be the cause of economic growth.

“They say this will create jobs, money, and that the oil will stay in the US but those are blatant lies,” said Eric Stowe, 55.  “Canada will get the money, China and India will get the oil and we will suffer the environmental costs.”

Environmentalists predict carbon refineries, due to the processing of the tar sands and oil mixture, will increase carbon pollution. Further, the impacts a spill could cause are beyond toxic to the world environment. “We need to make a quick move from fossil fuels and destroying the world,” Stowe said.

“We are here because Obama pledged in 2008 to focus on climate change and encouraging new sources of green energy,” Paul Gebauer said as he held a sign with a picture of his daughter on it, and the words “YOU PROMISED HER A CLEAN WORLD” underneath it. “This pipeline will have a huge impact on the environment, and the planet needs to be saved for our children and their children.”

Protestors feel Obama has not come through on promises made to finance green energy technologies and advancements in solar and wind power. They feel he is playing both sides of the field, compromising with Big Oil while making weak promises to green energy. “The consequences are reaching a point of no return. The planet needs to be saved, “ said Stowe.

President Obama has stated that he would only go through with the pipeline if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

A group of protestors, concerned about the unemployment rate, found a place between the other groups, and held signs reading, “JOBS NOT HANDOUTS.” They were small in number but spoke with strong and urgent voices. “We are here to be heard, we want quality jobs, jobs that can support a family,” said Dan Buzzell.

As of February 2014, 175,00 workers have joined the work force, but unemployment rose 0.1 percent due to the amount of Americans seeing an increase in improving jobs within the work force. The White House has pushed for an extension of unemployment benefits since nearly 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits at the end of 2013.

“We don’t want hand outs. $10.10 can’t support my family of five. We want our construction jobs back. We want jobs that will last,” said Buzzell. The small group agreed that they and the millions of Americans unemployed or laid-off want quality jobs to support a dignified quality of life.

“We are here not only to get Obama’s attention, but the media’s,” said Stowe, as he waved his sign from Copernicus Garage. “This is important to the world, and Obama can’t let us down, and by us,  I mean all of human kind.”

Wage Increase Trends Toward Lower Poverty Rate

By: Brittany Hill

At the forefront of President Obama’s speech last Wednesday at Central Connecticut was the push to raise our country’s federal minimum wage. The president’s decision to speak at CCSU remains a question, but some possible answers have arisen. The campus has close proximity to Bradley International Airport, and former president George W. Bush spoke here a few years back.

But perhaps the President spoke here because the university is located in a city where nearly one in four residents are living below the poverty line.

Although Connecticut has one of the highest minimum wages in all of the United States, the 2012 U.S. Census shows that 22.9 percent of New Britain residents live below the poverty line, a figure that more than doubles that of Connecticut’s.

“New England needs to lead on this issue,” stated Gov. Dannel Malloy, regarding raising the minimum wage in his introduction to President Obama’s speech. Malloy sees a direct correlation between poverty and minimum wage.

“We believe this is the best thing we can do for lifting people out of poverty,” he stated in a conference call with Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to discuss minimum wage on the Sunday prior to Obama’s visit.

But questions still remain over whether raising the minimum wage  will lessen the number of Connecticut residents living in poverty.

Economist Arindrajit Dube thinks so. He released a study at the very end of last year, titled “Minimum Wages and the Distribution of Family Incomes,” which finds a negative relationship between minimum wage and the poverty level. He believes that within the first year of raising the minimum wage 10 percent, poverty would decrease by 2.4 percent. Furthermore, he predicts that after the first year there will be a 3.6 percent decrease in poverty.

“You can’t have a part of society that is nearly dysfunctional and have a strong country,” said Paul Karpuk, English professor at CCSU aftering seeing Obama speak on campus.

Other governors throughout New England also feel that a strong middle class is essential for a strong economy.

“Any society wants a strong middle class, and this middle class is under tremendous stress,” said Gov. Chafee of Rhode Island in the conference call last Sunday. Chafee previously served in the United States Senate as a Republican until 2007.

This past January, Connecticut raised its minimum wage to $8.70 an hour, an increase of 45 cents from the year prior. Gov. Malloy mirrors Obama’s incentive to raise the minimum wage incrementally so that by 2017 the minimum wage would rise to $10.10 in Connecticut and federally.

Some of Connecticut’s local businesses have independently taken the initiative to pay their workers above the state’s minimum wage already. One of these, a locally-owned New Britain restaurant, has paid their workers over $10 an hour since day one in December.

“It’s not what we like to pay our workers,” said Rob Chiovoloni, owner of Cafe Beauregard in New Britain, “it’s what we pay for what they do.”

Chiovoloni had no idea that his decision to pay his workers a living wage would attract the attention of President Obama. Before his speech at CCSU last Wednesday, Obama, along with Malloy, Chafee, Shumlin and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, all showed up for lunch at Cafe Beauregard.

Throughout his 50 years of experience working in food service, Chiovoloni has found a strong correlation between how workers feel at their jobs and their level of effort.

“Part of what we found out is by giving people a more respectable raise, we get a great deal of work and great passion,” said Chiovoloni.

His wife, Alice Bruno, can attest to this notion confidently.

“One thing I see is that they feel respected and are very respective of him,” she said.

Although Cafe Beauregard pays their workers considerable wages, this is not the case for the majority of food service workers in the United States.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2012, leisure and hospitality accounted for nearly 19 percent of those earning at or below the federal minimum wage – the most workers in all the industries that earn minimum wage or less. A majority of these workers are employed in restaurants and other food services.

Employees at fast-food restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, began rallying for “living wages” in 2012. At one point, protesters were demanding that workers earn up to $15.00 an hour. With students representing a large number of these minimum wage recipients, those in opposition to raising the minimum wage question why a young adult would pursue a college degree when a decent working wage is waiting right around the corner.

“I have seen this cycle over the years,” said Edward Rensi, former McDonald’s U.S. CEO, in an interview with FOX last August. “It was designed for entry level jobs that teach people soft work skills. It was never meant to be a career, it was meant to be a career starter.”

He says that as a country we should focus more on creating career-driven jobs rather than committing so much energy to the low-skilled workers.

“They ought to be talking about real jobs that people can grow into to become real careers,” said Rensi. “It’s nonsense, it’s political, it’s inflationary and it will never work.”

However, as Karpuk argues, though an increase in the minimum wage could negate the purpose of attending college, it’s only to a certain extent.

“[Graduates] might be able to make a fairly high wage doing manufacturing but its not going to have much upward mobility,” said Karpuk. “If [students] want to do something that is mentally or intellectually challenging, they’re going to need a higher degree.”

Karpuk attended Obama’s speech discussing minimum wage, and could relate to Obama’s discontent at the argument that the raise will only benefit young people. Obama asked the crowd, “Well, what’s wrong with that?”

“Most of my students work outside. Some of them work and take a full load,” said Karpuk. “They can acutely feel this.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2011, workers under age 25 accounted for 23 percent of those earning the minimum wage or less, while those age 25 accounted for only three percent of people earning the minimum wage or less. With almost a quarter of New Britain residents being under 18-years-old, according to the 2010 Census, there is worry that this money allocated for raises will leave many unemployed.

“When jobs disappear, those with the least education, training skills, and experience suffer the most,” wrote Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in his article, “Raising Minimum Wage Will Hurt More than Help.”

But as past trends have shown, with every gain there will be a loss, at least according to Jeanne Sahadi, a senior writer for CNN Money. Though she asserts that raising the minimum wage would take 900,000 people out of poverty, she also believes that job losses are inevitable.

“A higher minimum wage raises payroll costs for an employer. That employer may handle those higher costs in any of several ways: cut jobs, reduce worker hours, curb summer hiring, opt not to replace workers who leave; book lower profits; or raise prices on customers,” she explained in a CNN article. “Raising minimum wage would ease poverty but cost some jobs.”

But not all national and local businesses are worried about needing to cut jobs. New Britain’s own feel that their fate is independent from the wages of their workers.

“We aren’t going to be going out of business because of what we pay our workers,” said Chiovoloni.

But that is something many companies, large and small, fear. With about 5.2 percent of hourly-waged workers earning at or below the minimum wage nationwide, the increase seems economically irrational to some but socially vital to others. As for Karpuk, “It’s just a matter of the society being healthy.”

Alumnus Builds Business Through Central

By Kiley Krzyzek

JC Special T, LLC. sells customized promotional products out of their office in CCSU’s Institute of Technology & Business Development (ITBD) building in downtown New Britain, which also houses many other start-up companies.

The incubator program helps start up businesses get off the ground through training programs and by situating businesses in a professional environment. Training programs include technical, computer, business/advisory, soft skills, ISO-Quality and lean enterprise. The ITBD building is also shared with assorted university classes.

Jack Crowley graduated from Central’s Marketing program in 1983. He left his job after the company he was working for–Allied Office Products–was bought out by Office Depot partly because they wanted everyone to work from home. But Crowley and partner Tara Drost had other plans.

“My partner and I worked together in a previous company, it was so corporate and so big it got ridiculous. They were shutting down offices, we were going to work out of our houses and we wanted to work our own hours so we decided to start our own business seven years ago. Tara’s a phenomenal office manager,” said Crowley.

They started JC Special T, LLC. and came to the ITBD Business Incubator program per recommendation of Crowley’s brother-in-law. Coincidentally, Richard Mullins who runs ITBD, used to play little league with Crowley back in the day.

“I knew about this place because my brother in law started his business down the hall and he since moved to Bristol but he was like ‘you gotta go check this place out’ we looked all over the place and we realized this is a great place,” said Crowley.

Crowley does not plan on leaving any time soon and has immersed himself in the CCSU community.

” I love it. You’re supposed to be out of here in five years but they like us, we do a lot of work with Central so it’s really going to be like ten. We’re not really an incubator anymore. We do work with the bookstore, they sell some of the CCSU merchandise not all of it, but there’s probably four or five different things from us. Today we did work with CACE, they ordered these mints they’re going to give out look like business cards but they’re mints and we’re going to do trade show bags,” said Crowley of business with Central clients.

JC Special T caters to those looking to advertise through branded products. The choices range from clothing to car and computer accessories and more. The products price range peaks at a $7,600 Ladies Watch to an 11 cent pen.

“We do, in a nut shell, anything with a company logo. That could be a T-shirt, it could be a golf ball, a hat, a mug. Pens, pencils you name it. We do a lot of tote bags a lot of people are into the environmental shopping bags we do a lot of those,” said Crowley.

Even though Crowley lives close to the ITBD building, he prefers to work in an official office setting.

“I could work from home, I live right over there, but it’s so much better here,” said Crowley.

Crowley emphasized the importance of learning in a professional environment, but attributes his time at Central to getting him to where he is today.

“What I learned at Central is my people skills, I learned not to be afraid. But what you learn in the textbook, when you get out here it’s real. So they tell you everything but they don’t really make you understand. You know if I don’t make enough money, I could lose my business. They’ll tell you that you need a line of credit but what does that really mean?” said Crowley.

Those people skills have helped Crowley develop a loyal following of clientele who came with him when he made the move to his own company.

“I had an advantage because I had a network of clients who came with me. In my world you become friends with them. So what I do for a living, it’s a lot of fun stuff. I had a built-in, set clientele. We were ahead of the curve, when you start a business from scratch and you have to go out and find the customers that’s very difficult. But again, we didn’t have to go through that,” said Crowley.

To an outsider, JC Special T simply sells customized products, but Crowley believes it goes beyond that.

“We tell people we sell products, we sell pens; what we really sell is a method of advertising. We try to accomplish ‘who do you want to get your name in front of, and what do you want to spend.’ A lot of people go to a trade show and say ‘oh I want a thousand pens because everyone really gives out pens at a trade show’ and no one really looks at them. They walk by they take the pen and they keep going. So maybe it’s something more expensive than a pen, but you only give it to people that are real prospects. Somebody stops at your booth and you sell insurance, and they’re looking for insurance, you bring them by your booth and give them a five dollar water bottle. They remember that more than a pen,” said Crowley.

As a business school alumnus, Crowley offers advice to current students.

“My suggestion to anyone who wants to work in that business is to go work for somebody in that business and learn it. Just work for them, you know you want to work for an office supply company go work for an office supply company. Learn the ins and outs of a business. That’s what I would highly recommend. The reason so many businesses fail is because people think that it’s easy. Go learn the business and learn the ins and outs and learn the purchasing aspects, and the financing aspects, that stuffs very important,” said Crowley.

Crowley is very happy working at JC Special T, LLC. within the ITBD building.

“Every single day is different so I love it. It’s really like a family here,” said Crowley.