Clearing its first legislative hurdle, the bi-partisan- and administration –supported measure setting gradual minimum wage thresholds to reach $15 in five years was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Labor Committee.
The bill (A-15) establishes an oversight panel and takes into account concerns of New Jersey businesses.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and members Cleopatra Tucker, Britnee Timberlake, Gabriela Mosquera, Angela McKnight and Joseph Egan are the sponsors of the bill.
“New Jerseyans deserve a livable wage. I thank my Assembly colleagues for joining me in moving our state forward against inequality and boosting low wages for hard-working men and women. Raising the minimum wage makes New Jersey more affordable and improves the quality of life for over a million residents,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This is not only good for workers, but for businesses and our economy. I look forward to joining my colleagues on the Assembly floor to vote to raise the minimum wage and lift working families out of poverty.”
A study by the United Way ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) project found that through 2016, out of New Jersey’s over 3 million households, 10.5 percent earn below the Federal Poverty Level (334,182 households) and 28 (895,879 households) percent qualify as ALICE households. The total number of New Jersey households that cannot afford basic needs increased 15 percent between 2010 and 2016.
“If a New Jersey resident making the current minimum wage works 40 hours every week of the year, their income would equal $18,408,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “This amount makes it tremendously difficult to support yourself and a family in New Jersey.”
The cost of basic household expenses—which United Way calls the “Household Survival Budget”—in New Jersey increased steadily to $74,748 for a family of four and $26,640 for a single adult. The cost of a family budget saw an increase of 28 percent from 2010 to 2016.
“Low-wage jobs continue to dominate the landscape in New Jersey, with 51 percent of all jobs paying less than $20 per hour,” said Timberlake (D-Essex). “Although unemployment rates have fallen during recent years, wages have remained low for many occupations. More people are working now yet many are barely earning enough to make ends meet.”
“Raising New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour is key to reducing overall poverty and giving working people the ability to make enough money to provide for their families,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “We realize that New Jersey is still slowly emerging from the Great Recession. This is the boost working families sorely need. In a time where wages remain stagnate, providing economic security is important to our residents.”
“With more contract work and on-demand jobs, job stability has decreased. This makes it difficult for some lower-income workers to meet regular monthly expenses or even to save money,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Raising the minimum wage is long overdue in New Jersey. This will provide working class residents another opportunity to climb up the economic ladder.”
“Individuals and families are struggling and it’s time New Jersey raises its base minimum wage to help them,” said Egan (D-Middlesex Somerset). “This bill addresses the concern of New Jersey’s business community and does what is right by the working people of New Jersey.”
The bill gradually and fairly raises the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, providing further increases in the minimum wage beyond what is required by the state constitution:
- Minimum Wage from the current $8.85 to $15 per hour for the majority of workers over a 5-year period beginning July 2019.
- Addresses New Jersey business concerns by establishing a moderate time table for a select group of workers over a period of 7 years beginning January 2020. The select group includes workers of very small businesses (less than 6 employees), farm workers, and seasonal workers.
- Increases the state’s tipped minimum wage from $2.13 to $5.13 over a period of 5 years beginning January 2019. It has been two and half decades since the last tipped wage increase.
- Establishes the “Task Force on Wages and State Benefits” to annually report about the impact of the minimum wage on eligibility for state services and benefits and the impact working families.
- Establishes a Training Wage As of, January 1, 2020, the bill would establish a training wage of not less than 90% of the minimum wage for the first 120 hours to be paid to an employee enrolled in a qualified training program.
- Does not interrupt minimum wage increases provided by the Constitution based on CPI-W increases will continue to be applied in all cases in any year in which the increase set by the bill are less than the CPI-W increase, including all years after 2024. It also provides, as a constitutional provision, that if the federal minimum wage exceeds the state minimum wage it will be adopted as the new minimum for the state subject to CPI increases.
The bill will now head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a hearing on January 28.