$15.00 minimum wage: Too little too late

As Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin wrote in an Op Ed piece, “The time to have raised the minimum wage was years ago.” He plans to unveil his bill today. It might well have to undergo changes to get approval from the Senate and Governor Murphy. Although better late than never, the goal should be to provide New Jerseyans a living wage. The bill does not do that.

  The MIT Living Wage Calculator for New Jersey is 1 adult: $13.72; 1 adult & 1 child: $28.56; 1 adult & 2 children: $33.29; 2 adults with 1 working: $21.09. The highest living wage listed is $42.25 for 1 adult and 3 children. For more specific data on each NJ county go here.

The minimum wage now is $8.60 an hour and automatically will rise to $8.85 on January 1. The bill would increase it to $9.50 for most workers on July 1, 2019, and then to $11 on January 1, 2020. It would then increase on Jan. 1 of each year from 2021 to 2024 until topping out at $15. 

The bill should have steeper increases each year and reach $15.00 by 2021 or sooner. 

Farmworkers, teenagers, seasonal workers and employees at businesses with fewer than 10 workers would see their wages increase at a slower rate, not reaching $15 an hour until 2029. These people deserve a much more rapid escalation for their minimum wage. 

Gov. Murphy has said hiking the minimum wage is a top priority, but there still remain obstacles to overcome. It was Senate President Sweeney who insisted on smaller, slower increases for groups like farm workers. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll in October showed strong support for raising the minimum wage, but respondents pegged the ideal hourly figure at $12.47, on average. Gov. Murphy so far has not reacted to the bill. He recently stated, ”NewJersey’s minimum wage, adjusted for cost of living, is the fifth-most insufficient in the nation. This is indefensible.”

It remains possible that a bill might be passed later this month but it should strengthen provisions that move us more quickly to a living wage.  

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