New Jersey Joins The Fight For $15 Movement

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New Jersey Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto introduced legislation Thursday aimed at increasing the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The state currently has a $8.38 minimum wage that is designed to increase automatically with inflation. Prieto hopes to almost double these wages — and even tied his legislation to increase with inflation. Those who support the $15 minimum wage often claim it will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessaries.

“As more people fall into poverty we need to lift them up and help them join the middle class,” Prieto told reporters at the statehouse, according to The Record. “I think we need to get on this and follow suit and do the right thing.”

Critics, however, argue that many businesses don’t have the profits to handle the added cost of labor. New Jersey will be joining a handful of other states trying to have a $15 minimum wage. California at the moment is considering two separate union-backed proposals, while Massachusetts lawmakers and advocates have discussed other possible approaches.

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been one of the more adamant lawmakers in support of the increase. He introduced a bill Sept. 10 that could gradually bring the state minimum wage to $15 by 2021. He also unilaterally raised wages for those working in the fast-food industry, state university workers and state employees.

New Jersey is a very big union state, having the the seventh largest percentage of unionized workers in the country. Labor unions are some of the biggest advocates for the $15 minimum wage — the Fight for $15 movement being at the forefront of the increases for the last few years.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he is not outright opposed to moderate wage increases, though he has spoken against increases as drastic as $15 an hour. His office warned state lawmakers against supporting the latest $15 minimum wage proposal.

“Between nearly doubling the minimum wage and their effort to enshrine a $3 billion tax increase in the constitution, there is absolutely no end to what Democrats in the Legislature will do to kill jobs, drive major businesses out,” Spokesman Brian Murray told The Philadelphia Inquirer in an email.

Seattle was the first to pass a $15 minimum wage in June 2014, but many businesses have already reported problems. Low-skilled workers and those new to the workforce are likely to be the worst hit because they often don’t contribute as much to the company.

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