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Democratic Lawmakers Propose $15/Hour NJ Minimum Wage

Laborer Photo Credit: Wikipedia

A trio of Democratic New Jersey legislators introduced a proposed law Thursday to increase New Jersey's minimum wage to $15 from $8.38.y.

“When businesses fail to pay a living wage, government is forced to fill the gap,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a co-sponsor of the measure. “Essentially, taxpayers are subsidizing these low-paying jobs -- and, in the process, suppressing wages for everyone else in the workforce

"It’s not fair for workers or for the taxpayers who end up paying the bill," Wisniewski said. "The American economy works best with a healthy middle class that has money in their pocket to spend.”

If approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by the governor, the measure would boost wages for more than a third of New Jersey workers, supporters said.

According to the United Way of Northern New Jersey, a single New Jerseyan with no children would need to earn $13.78/hr for basic needs such as food and shelter, and $19.73 to achieve basic economic stability.

New Jersey’s current minimum wage is a little over a dollar above the federal floor for wages in one of the nation's most expensive place to live. The take-home pay for a full-time minimum wage worker is less than $18,000 a year.

“The landlord doesn’t wait and the electric company doesn’t wait, so neither can we,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of NJ Working Families. “Poverty wages force working families to cut back on basic purchases, dragging down our economy and depressing our most vulnerable communities."

What began as an organized $15/hr campaign by fast food workers in New York City has become a national movement that has won concessions from Walmart, McDonalds and other major corporations.

Seattle become the first American city to approve a $15 minimum wage, with San Francisco right behind. This past September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would make a major push for a $15 an hour minimum wage in New York.

"This is an education issue, because poverty is strongly correlated to educational challenges,” said Wendell Steinhaur, President of the New Jersey Education Association. “When children don't have reliable food and shelter, their education suffers. When parents have to work multiple jobs to meet the bills, they have less time to support their children's education."

"Too many airport workers, childcare providers, home health aides and food service workers can't earn enough to support themselves, much less sustain a family,"added state Sen. Raymond Lesniak.

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