by Mitchell Hirsch
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is clearly annoyed that the movement to raise the minimum wage is gaining ground across the country. In a speech this week to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce group in Washington, Christie said bluntly:
“I gotta tell you the truth: I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am.”
“I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table in America tonight who are saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’”
Mr. Christie, apparently, is unaware that most minimum wage workers are adults. In fact, of the nearly 28 million workers in the U.S. who would see their hourly pay rise if the federal minimum wage were increased from $7.25 to a proposed $10.10 per hour, the average age is 35 years old, nearly 88 percent are at least 20 years old, and more than a third are at least 40 years old.
Last year, Governor Christie vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have raised New Jersey’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour. Voters in the state responded by overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment that raised the minimum wage by $1.00 and indexing it to inflation. As a result, New Jersey’s minimum wage, now $8.25, will rise by 13 cents on January 1, 2015 – still far less than what is needed to support either an individual or a family.
Yesterday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters he thought Christie’s remarks were an indication that, on the minimum wage, the Governor “has got his head in the sand.” Perez noted that the U.S. federal minimum wage ranks third to last as a percent of median wage of all the developed countries, adding “I mean, we suck. We really do.”