The New Jersey state Senate voted Thursday to approve a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. The measure, which was passed by the Assembly in May, now heads to Gov. Chris Christie, who could sign it into law or veto it. The bill would mean raises for one in four workers in the state, boosting pay for nearly one million New Jerseyans, according to analysis by New Jersey Policy Perspective.
The legislature’s action follows the enactment earlier this year of $15 state minimum wages in both California and New York. On Tuesday, the District of Columbia city council approved a $15 local minimum wage.
Campaigns for $15 minimum wages are also active in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, as well as the cities of Baltimore, Cleveland and Minneapolis.
“The $15 minimum wage is roaring across the country and delivering the first big raises for workers at the bottom in decade,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Governor Christie now gets to show where he stands – with this nation’s struggling middle class or with low-paying corporations like McDonalds and Walmart that are making billions in profit while their workers suffer.
“If Governor Christie doesn’t block it, the $15 minimum wage will mean several thousand dollars more each year in the pockets of nearly 1 million workers in the state. That’s a big deal for a home health aide or fast food worker who struggles on $15,000 a year. And it’s a big deal for taxpayers, who pick up the public assistance tab when wealthy corporations don’t pay their workers enough to survive,” Owens said.
Last month, Paul Sonn, NELP’s general counsel and program director, testified in support of the $15 minimum wage plan before the state Senate’s labor committee, which then approved the proposal.
Should Gov. Christie veto the measure, legislative leaders are vowing to put it before voters on the November 2017 ballot, circumventing the governor. That strategy was successfully pursued the last time Christie vetoed a minimum wage increase, and supporters of the $15 minimum wage are confident it would be approved by New Jersey voters.
If enacted, the New Jersey $15 measure would bring to 21 percent the share of the U.S. workforce covered by $15 minimum wage laws.