Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

New Jersey Voters to Decide on Minimum Wage Increase

Momentum continues to build around a minimum wage increase in the days following President Obama’s call to raise the federal level. Today brings good news from the Garden State, where the New Jersey Assembly just approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour, then adjust the wage annually to keep up with inflation. The Senate approved the same proposal last week. Whether New Jersey workers get a raise is now up to the voters: the amendment will be on the ballot this November. (State lawmakers adopted the constitutional amendment strategy after Governor Christie issued a conditional veto of the minimum wage bill the legislature passed last year; the governor has no role in the amendment process.)

A minimum wage of $8.25 per hour would increase a full-time minimum wage worker’s annual pay from $14,500 to $16,500. This $2,000 boost would still not be enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line, and it definitely falls short of a living wage in a state as expensive as New Jersey. Moreover, the proposed constitutional amendment would not change New Jersey’s minimum cash wage for tipped workers, which is just $2.13 per hour. (Though employers would be required to ensure their tipped employees are paid $8.25 per hour, tipped workers are often paid less than the minimum wage due to wage theft and other illegal practices.) Nonetheless, a $1.00 per hour increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage would be an important step in the right direction – and indexing wages to inflation would help ensure that these very modest gains are not erased as the cost of living rises.

Women in New Jersey would especially benefit from a minimum wage increase because they represent the majority of the state’s minimum wage workers. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that nearly half a million workers in New Jersey would get a raise under the amendment, 55 percent of them women. Higher pay for thousands of New Jersey women would help narrow the gap between women’s and men’s earnings in the state – and bigger paychecks for workers would boost New Jersey’s economy and help create more than 1,700 jobs.

With all of these benefits – and no evidence to support contrary claims that a minimum wage increase would cost jobs – it’s no wonder that 76 percent of New Jersey voters surveyed last year supported raising and indexing the minimum wage. I’m hoping the amendment passes with equally strong support in November.   

Comments

Post new comment