Legislators in New Jersey reached a historic deal today that will make the Garden State the fourth in the country—after New York, Massachusetts and California—to adopt a $15 minimum wage.
“Today’s victory is the result of successful organizing by low-wage workers in New Jersey who, over the course of two years held rallies, appealed to the public and directly petitioned their representatives in Trenton to adopt a $15 minimum wage,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
The agreement calls for gradually raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2024 for most workers, and by 2026 for seasonal workers and small businesses with less than six employees—with full parity by 2028. Farmworkers will be entitled to a $12.50 minimum wage by 2024, with the possibility of reaching $15 by 2027, and full parity by 2030.
“Today’s victory is the result of successful organizing by low-wage workers in New Jersey who, over the course of two years held rallies, appealed to the public and directly petitioned their representatives in Trenton to adopt a $15 minimum wage.”
“While this deal marks an important step forward toward greater economic security for New Jersey’s low-wage workers, it is unfortunate that it leaves farmworkers, seasonal workers, and employees of small businesses behind by delaying their much needed increase to $15 per hour,” said Owens.
Legislators set an important precedent for other states that are considering minimum wage increases by rejecting corporate lobbyists’ efforts to leave young workers behind. Approximately 107,000 workers under the age of 20 work in New Jersey, and many depend on every dollar they earn to pay for college or help support their families. Including young workers in this historic raise shows that states can and should make all work pay.
Unfortunately, New Jersey’s minimum wage deal leaves the tipped sub-minimum wage unchanged at $2.13 per hour. Addressing this oversight in the future will be essential to ensuring that no worker in New Jersey is left behind.
A $15 wage in New Jersey shows that the Fight for $15 campaign continues to gain momentum. Since workers in New York first walked out of fast-food jobs in November 2012 to demand a $15 minimum wage and a union, more than 20 states and 40 cities and counties have raised their minimum wage, with raises amounting to more than $68 billion. Additional campaigns to raise the minimum wage are underway at the federal level and in more than 15 states, including Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Minnesota, and Hawaii, all of which are considering minimum wages of $15 or more per hour.
The benefits for low-wage workers and their families from raising the minimum wage have been significant. In the face of broader economic trends that have led to stagnant and falling wages across the bottom of our economy, raising the minimum wage has reduced economic hardship, lifted workers out of poverty, and improved other life and health outcomes. Raising the minimum wage increases consumer spending and so can boost demand for goods and services, keeping money circulating in the economy and creating a virtuous cycle that benefits workers, businesses, and communities.
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. As a national intermediary and back-up resource for many minimum wage campaigns around the country, NELP was pleased to be able to support the work of the coalition that fought to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey. For more information about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.
[Photo courtesy New Jersey Working Families Alliance].