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He Signed It! New Jersey Expands Protection for Pregnant Workers

Great news out of New Jersey! Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that protects and supports pregnant women in the workplace. The new law bans pregnancy discrimination and requires employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies. By signing the bill, Gov. Christie joins the unanimous New Jersey Senate and 77-1 New Jersey Assembly that support reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. As a result, fewer pregnant workers will be forced off the job at the moment they can least afford it. Read more »

New Jersey’s New Years Resolution: Tackle Pregnancy Discrimination

It’s 2014 and it’s hard to believe that pregnant women still face discrimination in the workplace. Many women can work through their pregnancies without changes in their jobs, but some women need temporary, often minor adjustments in their work duties or schedules to continue working safely during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, many times these women are being fired from their jobs, forced onto unpaid leave, or forced to quit when employers refuse to provide temporary accommodations for pregnant women to continue working without jeopardizing their health and the health of their pregnancy. Read more »

More States and Localities Move to Raise the Minimum Wage as President Calls for a Nationwide Increase

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the holiday shopping season is officially in full swing. But while some of us retreat to the internet to avoid frenzied shoppers at the mall, the season is far more stressful for many of the workers restocking store shelves and serving meals in the food court (and not just because they have to deal with swarms of cranky customers). For millions of employees in retail, fast food, and other industries that pay poverty-level wages, the end of the year means hard work and higher expenses – without any chance of a holiday bonus.

As Paul Krugman points out in the New York Times this week, the inflation-adjusted wages of nonsupervisory workers in retail have fallen almost 30 percent over the past four decades. That drop parallels the declining value of the federal minimum wage, which is just $7.25 per hour today; if it had kept up with inflation since reaching its peak in 1968, it would be over $10.70 per hour by now. In another recent piece for the New York Times, Professor Arindrajit Dube notes that this “erosion of the minimum wage has been an important contributor to wage inequality, especially for women” (who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the U.S.); in fact, “the evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages.”

Fortunately, there’s movement on the minimum wage in a number of states and localities – and even some encouraging signs nationally. Today, in a major speech on economic mobility, President Obama renewed his call to raise the minimum wage. Recognizing the link between the low minimum wage and widening economic inequality, he described an increase as a key piece of an agenda to restore opportunity for all. Read more »

A Victory for New Jersey Women: Minimum Wage to Rise January 1

On Election Day this week, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour beginning January 1, and to adjust the wage annually thereafter to keep up with inflation. This is an important win for New Jersey workers – especially for women, who represent almost 70 percent of the state’s minimum wage earners. A one-dollar boost in hourly pay will mean an extra $2,000 a year for full-time work – nearly a 14 percent raise (though still not enough to pull a family of three out of poverty). Indexing the wage to inflation will ensure that these modest gains are not eroded as the cost of living rises.

When New Jersey’s minimum wage goes up in January, an estimated 250,000 women and 179,000 men will get a raise. About a quarter of these workers are parents; over 200,000 children live in families in which at least one parent would benefit from the minimum wage increase. New Jersey Policy Perspective estimates that the additional dollars flowing through the state’s economy would create over 1,500 new jobs. And because women are the majority of workers who would get a raise, the higher minimum wage could help close the wage gap. Read more »

New Jersey Voters: Vote YES on Ballot Question #2 and Raise the Minimum Wage!

Vote YES on Ballot Question #2!Next Tuesday (November 5) is Election Day, and it’s a particularly important one for voters in the Garden State. In addition to choosing their next governor, New Jerseyans will get to decide whether their state’s minimum wage will remain at $7.25 per hour for the foreseeable future – or go up to $8.25 next year and continue to rise with the cost of living.

Today, New Jersey’s minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum, despite the extremely high cost of living in the state. At $7.25 an hour, a full-time worker makes just $14,500 in a year – thousands of dollars below the poverty line for mom with two kids. Women are nearly 70 percent of New Jersey’s minimum wage workers, and contrary to popular myth, the vast majority of these workers are adults, many with families to support.

On Tuesday’s ballot, New Jersey voters will see Ballot Question #2, which – if approved – would amend the state constitution to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2014, and adjust it annually thereafter to keep up with inflation. Read more »

New Jersey Outlaws Employer Crackdowns on Workers Who Discuss Their Pay

It’s been fifty years since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made clear that women should receive equal pay for equal work, but women are still paid less than men in nearly every occupation.

And because employee salaries are often kept secret, it is difficult for women to find out when they are being paid less than their male colleagues, and therefore difficult to challenge pay discrepancies. In fact, over 61 percent of private-sector employees report that discussing wages is either prohibited or discouraged by their employers. Employer policies and practices that prevent workers from discussing their pay mean that a woman worker could be paid less year after year than the man across the hall doing her same job and never know it.

One week ago today, New Jersey took a huge step toward solving this problem when Chris Christie signed into law a bill prohibiting retaliation against employees who disclose salary information for the purpose of investigating whether pay decisions are being made unfairly. Effective immediately, the new law prohibits employer retaliation against employees for discussing information such as job title, occupational category, rate of compensation, and employee benefits. Read more »

When Will the Minimum Wage Go Up?

It's a fitting question to ask this week, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the landmark law that established the first federal minimum wage. And it's a particularly important question for women, who make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationwide.

The answer, though, depends a lot on where you live. A majority of states follow the federal minimum wage, which is not scheduled to rise even though it has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for almost four years — and for tipped workers in states that follow the federal standard, the minimum cash wage has been frozen at a shockingly low $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. But in states like Washington, Colorado, Ohio, and Vermont, the minimum wage will automatically rise in January 2014 to keep up with inflation, and minimum wage increases recently enacted in New YorkConnecticut, and Rhode Island will also begin to take effect in 2014. 

To make it easy for you to find out what’s happening with the minimum wage in your state, the National Women's Law Center just released this handy interactive map

Find out how the low minimum wage affects women in your state

You can click on any state to see its minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, along with the share of minimum wage workers who are women, the next scheduled increase in the minimum wage, and any recent action on the minimum wage in the state legislature.  Read more »

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. Read more »

States Taking the Lead on Higher Minimum Wages

It’s been a busy few weeks on the minimum wage front, as policymakers in a slew of states have moved to raise wages for low-paid workers. If you follow our blog, you already know that minimum wage increases are on the agenda in Maryland and New York – and you know that this is especially good news for women, who make up the majority of minimum wage workers in those states and across the country.

While a federal minimum wage increase – like the one proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act last year – is needed to boost pay for minimum wage and tipped workers throughout the U.S., it’s great to see momentum building at the state level. Here’s a quick run-down of recent developments:

  • California. A bill pending in the Assembly, AB-10, would increase the minimum wage from $8.00 per hour to $8.25 in 2014, $8.75 in 2015, and $9.25 in 2016, then adjust the wage annually for inflation beginning in 2017.
  • Connecticut. A bill pending in the Senate, S.B. 387, would raise the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 in July 2013 and $9.75 in July 2014, with annual indexing beginning in July 2015. NWLC’s new fact sheet shows that over 246,000 Connecticut workers would get a raise by 2014 under this proposal – and about six in ten of those workers would be women.

Gov. Christie (Mostly) Rejects Minimum Wage Increase NJ Women Need

Yesterday was the deadline for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to act on a minimum wage bill that the state legislature passed in December. Governor Christie did not sign the bill, which would have raised the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour and adjusted it annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that the legislature's bill would lift wages for over half a million New Jersey workers, 55 percent of them women. But these hardworking women and their families will have to wait longer for the raise they need, since Governor Christie issued a "conditional veto" — that is, he sent the bill back to the legislature with proposed changes.

Most of those changes would seriously weaken the bill that a majority of elected representatives in New Jersey already passed. Governor Christie's proposal would raise New Jersey's minimum wage to $8.25 per hour over three years, rather than to $8.50 in 2013. And once the wage reached $8.25, it would be stuck there until the legislature acted again to raise it, because Governor Christie's proposal would eliminate the annual cost-of-living adjustments in future years.

New Jersey's cost of living is among the highest in the country. Indexing the minimum wage for inflation is essential to help ensure that the buying power of the minimum wage does not erode as it has over the past decades; indeed, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since the 1960s, it would be more than $10.50 per hour today. Perhaps that's why a recent poll showed 76 percent of New Jerseyans support both raising the state's minimum wage and tying the wage to inflation. Read more »