Free market groups challenge unions on minimum wage

Breanna Deutsch | Contributor

Did New Jersey’s minimum wage increase help or hurt the poor?

The free-market group Americans for Prosperity held a rally outside of AFL-CIO’s Trenton, New Jersey offices Friday, asking the union’s president Charles Wowkanech to debate the minimum wage.

“Charles Wowkanech was one of the biggest champions of New Jersey’s minimum wage law,” Daryn Iwicki, AFP’s state director said in a statement. “Now that it’s becoming clear how New Jersey’s minimum wage hike is going to hurt New Jerseyans and hurt job creators, Wowkanech is hiding under his desk.”

In November of 2013, New Jersey amended the state constitution to allow legislation raising the minimum hourly pay from $7.25 to $8.25. The bill adjusts the mandated wage according to the state’s cost of living, so it is likely to rise yearly.

Proponents of the bill argued that the mandated wage increase would not shrink the labor force or negatively impact the business community. However, the Employment Policies Institute reached conflicting conclusions after they questioned 250 New Jersey businesses about the impact the new wage law would have on employment and their bottom line.

According to the EPI survey, 61 percent of business owners said they would be forced to raise prices on their goods or services, 48 percent said they were very or somewhat likely to reduce employee hours and 49 percent said they would have to cut staff from their payroll.

In total, 78 percent of respondents said the legislation would have either a big or small impact on their labor costs.

The results of the survey are what compelled EPI to send Wowkanech a request to discuss the policy. But over fifteen days after they sent the letter, EPI has not heard a response.

AFP says that these alarming findings make it all the more important for Wowkanech to discuss his stance on the minimum wage in a public setting.

“Mr. Wowkanech supported this law. He pushed to make it a reality. Now he should step up and defend it to the public,” said AFP’s Iwicki.

AFP’s New Jersey communications director, Mike Proto, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the state serves as a forewarning to what could happen to other states if they follow President Obama’s request to hike the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25 an hour standard.

“New Jersey is a case study of what not to do,” Proto said. “The state continues to do a lot of things that are destructive to our economy…This comes down to something very simple – we need pro-growth policy in New Jersey. We do not need someone imposing a higher minimum wage – it just hurts the lower skilled workers and teenagers.”

Instead, he said, “What we really need to do is to start stimulating economic growth. If we want to see upward mobility and if we want to see higher wages we need better fiscal policies – not more government intervention.”

As part of the rally, the EPI launched a mobile billboard featuring a picture of Wowkanech’s face surrounded by chickens, questioning why the labor leader refuses to participate in an honest debate.

EPI sent a similar billboard to AFL-CIO’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, which called on the labor organization’s Richard Trumpka to debate EPI on the same issue.

The ALF-CIO did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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