Amplifying Today’s Policy Briefing on New Jersey’s fight for a $15 minimum wage

Jane Fonda, actress & worker advocate with One Fair Wage, a campaign to raise the minimum wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers (largely impacts women workers) was today’s special guest. This policy briefing was well-sourced, including fair wage advocates like Fonda and Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, who Amy Poehler brought to the Golden Globes this year to draw attention to Jayaraman’s work for better pay and treatment of low-wage women servers. And Rutgers economist Prof. Paula Voos. And CWAs powerhouse Hetty Rosenstein, who pointed out the lesson of Tuesday’s election, that when the Republicans control the federal government, anything that goes wrong is their fault – and here in NJ, Democrats control the legislature and we have “the most progressive governor in the country,” so if we don’t get a $15 minimum wage, we have to hold the Democrats accountable. $15 an hour – and with no carveouts (hey, Sen. Sweeney, talking to you). More on today’s event here – but here’s the important stuff:

Couldn’t be there? Here’s how you can loop in to the action help power Asw Shavonda Sumter’s bill for $15 minimum wage with no carveouts:

(1) Text  – RaiseNJ to 31996 – You’ll start getting action items. I just sent an email to my legislators (Dems Zwicker & Freiman, and Sen. Bateman). Easy.
(2) Lobby Day is December 17 – more on this later.

Photo of Jane Fonda above: Staci Berger 

Comment (1)

  1. Jim Keady

    I have raised the following issue with the Governor and with advocates in the #Fightfor15 campaign and I ask that readers of Blue Jersey consider these points as well.

    I am writing from the perspective of someone who has been involved in labor rights advocacy for 20 years; who has supported the #Fightfo15 both as an activist and Congressional candidate; and whose family has owned a successful tavern in Ocean County for 36 years and which I have been running for the past 5.

    When I took over my family’s tavern when my father passed away, one of the first things I did was make a commitment to paying workers a “living wage.” To be clear, this is NOT what most restaurant owners do, especially when the business was/is hemorrhaging money because my dad was sick for three years and the management was not doing their job. Most restaurant owners just ask, “How can I make more money?” not “How can I make more money so that I can get all my employees up to the living wage standard ($12.41 per hour for one adult in southern Ocean County)?”

    I laid out a 3-5 year plan with this as part of it and I have accomplished it. As part of the planning, I met with my senior employees and asked them, “Do you want me to go to a straight $15 hourly wage and then raise prices accordingly and do the education component to let customers know why the prices are 20% higher?” To a person, each of my front of the house (servers) employees said, “No.” I had this conversation again with my current senior employees just a few weeks ago, knowing that this legislation is going to move, and again, each of them said, “No.”

    Why? Because they can make more money with tips and a tipped wage than with a straight $15 minimum wage.

    I am not offering this to any way stand against the $15 minimum wage, I am simply saying that there are layers of complexity to this that I am unsure if the lead activists and the elected officials are taking into account.

    Consider it this way… If you are a bartender and you consistently make $20 an hour in tips and you are paid $3 an hour as a “tipped wage,” you’re making $23 an hour. If the law goes through as it’s currently proposed and you now only make $15 a hour (trust me, not all owners are like me, they will pay the minimum that they need to pay by law) you just lost $8 an hour in gross pay.

    Also, if the law goes through as currently proposed and this becomes the new reality, prices at local restaurants will have to rise to match the increased per hour labor costs. Again, I am not against this, but to help small businesses, we will need a massive PR campaign on the part of the state to help customers realize that, “Yes, prices have gone up at your favorites bars and restaurants, but you no longer need to tip because the money you used to tip is now included in the menu price.” This will be a huge cultural change in the bar and restaurant industry in NJ. Given that NJ generates more than $45B in tourism revenues each year, and a lot of that is spent in bars and restaurants, this is worthy of serious discussion.

    Small businesses and their employees are rarely brought into these conversations and it is why, when laws like this are passed, there can be such backlash and we end up losing middle class small business owners and their middle class employees to the Republican Party.

    We can do this. We can fight for $15. AND we can do it in a way that takes a major part of our middle class into account and gets buy-in from them. I have offered my help and advice and perspective to both the activist community and to Governor Murphy on this and I can say that I do not feel that the concerns I have raised have been taken seriously. I remain hopeful that this can change.

    Peace, JWK

    p.s. The issue of not having small business owners as a critical voice in Democratic Party politics is an issue I have raised in multiple forums both in NJ and DC and it still remains a glaring blindspot for the party.


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