Today I declined a cost of living adjustment increase to my legislative salary, and committed that I will not take a raise until Rhode Island raises the minimum wage for all low-income workers.
I recognize this is an entirely symbolic move, and in fact that it is a particularly tiny symbol, considering how minuscule this legislative salary increase is (it’s real, real small). And I support the COLA on principle – in fact, I think that the (comparatively) low compensation for state legislators in Rhode Island is a significant barrier keeping a lot of Rhode Islanders from serving in elected office, particularly low-income Rhode Islanders whose voices we desperately need in the General Assembly. But as a legislator, I do not personally feel comfortable taking any cost of living adjustment knowing that Rhode Island’s lowest-paid workers have not received any adjustment.
It is past time for our state to declare that no Rhode Islander that works full-time should live in poverty. Our current minimum wage is a starvation wage, and too many Rhode Island families are struggling to get by on this inadequate pay. We need a LIVING wage, which is why I support the Fight for $15, and why I will continue working to increase our minimum wage and refuse future salary increases until we are at least on par with our neighbors here in New England.