Don’t Expect a Minimum Wage Hike in NJ This Year
Minimum wage earners recently received some bad news from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development: the wage will not increase for at least another year.
New Jersey residents who work 40 hours a week earning the current minimum wage make less than $20,000 a year. Because the cost of living in New Jersey is so high, it is very difficult to make ends meet on that salary.
“Making $8.38 is poverty wages in our state and I don’t know if many realize that people making that wage are only earning around $18,000 a year,” said Analilia Mejia, NJ Working Families executive director. “That’s an untenable situation for most New Jersey working families and it’s a situation that can be remedied.”
The situation could be remedied by hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour through the legislature, through Gov. Chris Christie or through the state’s wage board Mejia said. In April, Her group organized what she called the state’s largest Fight for 15 rally.
“The reality for the legislature though is if we have governor who will stand in the way of working families earning just a little bit closer to that American dream then all of their actions are for naught,” Mejia conceded.
The governor’s spokespeople did not respond to a request seeking comment on this report.
In 2013, Christie was opposed to the minimum wage increase because it was tied to the Consumer Price Index. Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver was the speaker at the time and she led the charge to increase the wage. It was ultimately placed on the ballot and was unanimously approved by voters. The wage increased $1 to $8.25 an hour and went up last year to the current $8.38.
In theory, Oliver backs the $15 an hour concept pushed by Mejia and her group, but said it would be extremely tough to do it in the current economic climate in New Jersey.
“We have to consider all the economic factors,” said Oliver (D-East Orange). “I do support efforts to keep in the public view elevation of the minimum wage to $15, but our economy in New Jersey is not improving. Our businesses are not doing well. Our employers are not doing well.”
The most recent minimum wage report released by NJ Policy Perspective, from December 2014, explained how the organization thought $8.38 an hour is inadequate.
“Poorly paid people can’t get by on New Jersey’s minimum wage. Our leaders should stop acting as if the 2013 increase was enough. The fact that so many New Jerseyans must keep scraping by on less than $20,000 a year underscores the utter inadequacy of the state minimum wage,” wrote NJPP deputy director John Whiten in an emailed press release.