The campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and help lift millions of working families out of poverty is gaining momentum on the federal and state levels, thanks to the efforts of two elected union brothers, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (CD-1) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (LD-3).
Rep. Norcross plans to introduce federal legislation raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023. The phase in is intended to provide a cushion to small business to allow owners time to adjust to paying the higher rate without resorting to layoffs.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, where it has remained stuck for seven years. A study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition concluded that no minimum-wage worker in any state working a standard 40-hour week can afford market rent on a two-bedroom unit.
In New Jersey, where the minimum wage was increased by ballot referendum after being vetoed by Gov. Christie, the minimum wage is $8.38 per hour in one of the highest cost states in the country. Sen. Sweeney said a resolution gradually raising the wage to $15 per hour will be introduced Thursday, Feb. 11. Additional legislation would provide tax credits to small businesses that raise the minimum wage faster than the phase-in schedule. Sen. Sweeney anticipates the minimum wage question being on the ballot in 2017.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, meanwhile, is sponsoring a bill that raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour. It would mean a significant increase to New Jersey’s minimum wage workers who earn less than $18,000 a year. The legislative approach would need sign off from Christie, which is very unlikely. However, a question can be placed on the ballot if both houses of the Legislature approve it in two straight years.
Raising the minimum wage is good for the entire state. Workers and the families who are directly affected benefit immediately by being able to afford more of life’s necessities. The increase in discretionary spending by these working families on necessities such as food and housing benefits small businesses and the community at large.
We wholeheartedly support the efforts of brothers Norcross and Sweeney to bring the economic scales closer to balance. We will continue to lead this fight for social and economic justice until every worker is paid a living wage.