$15 Minimum Wage Would Boost Pay for Nearly 1 Million Workers in New Jersey

An estimated 975,000 New Jersey workers will see their hourly pay rise if a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 over five years is enacted, according to a report released this week by New Jersey Policy Perspectives.  Nearly a quarter of the state’s workforce would benefit directly from pay increases under the plan.

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Legislative leaders in Trenton have joined forces behind a proposal to raise the minimum wage from its current $8.38 per hour to $15 by 2021.  Democrats Vincent Prieto, the General Assembly Speaker, and Stephen Sweeney, the Senate President, are sponsoring the measure in the state legislature, where Democrats have majorities in both chambers.

The report on the impact of raising the minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 by 2021 also showed that, of the nearly one million workers whose pay would increase:

  • 91 percent are working adults, 20-years of age or older
  • 53 percent are so-called “prime age” workers, between 25 and 54 years old
  • 61 percent are full-time workers
  • 28 percent are parents with dependent children
  • 53 percent are women
  • 51 percent are people of color
  • 47 percent have attended or graduated from college
  • 56 percent are in very poor families, and 43 percent are in low-income families

(Read the full report:  “Raising New Jersey’s Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour Would Boost a Large and Diverse Group of Working Men and Women” (pdf), Jon Whiten, New Jersey Policy Perspectives)

Support for $15 state minimum wage proposals has been gaining momentum this year, fueled by campaigns in large states like New York and California.  Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has been leading a drive for a $15 statewide minimum wage, and lawmakers and labor groups have been pressing for a statewide $15 minimum in California.  One or both of those states may be close to approving $15 minimum wage plans, and New Jersey could be the next large population state to do so.

Should New Jersey legislators approve their leaders’ $15 proposal, they expect it will be vetoed by Governor Chris Christie, who vetoed a much smaller minimum wage increase in 2013.  In response that year, supporters of the increase placed a Constitutional amendment question on the ballot, to raise the minimum wage by $1 – from $7.25 to $8.25 – and index it to increase with the cost of living.  Voters approved that measure overwhelmingly, 61 to 39.  Now, the sponsors of the $15 New Jersey minimum wage proposal say that, should the governor veto it, they will take the same ballot measure path, and put the plan before voters in 2017.


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