October 3, 2017 In The News

There’s no way to survive in NJ making less than $9 an hour

A funny thing happened last year when McDonald’s raised worker salaries from $9.01 to $9.90 an hour: The company flourished.

The hamburger mega-chain reported its third straight increase in quarterly comparative sales after two years of decline. Company CEO credited the boom, in part, to a decrease in defections by valued workers.

Last week, Target announced in essence that it has seen the wisdom of McDonald’s ways. The retailer plans to add more to its employees’ paychecks from $7.25 to $9 starting as early as next month – its first hourly hike since April 2015.

Its goal is to reach $15 by the year 2020.

Now a non-partisan grassroots organization is hoping to capture some of this national momentum for the Garden State.

New Jersey Working Families Alliance is urging residents to send a plea to lawmakers: Commit to a $15 minimum wage for workers in the state over the next five years.

The group’s message is simple but profound: New Jerseyans can’t afford to live on the current minimum wage of $8.44 for another year — or the $8.60 it will creep up to next year.

New Jersey’s minimum wage will go up by this much on Jan. 1

The minimum wage is guided by changes in the consumer price index.

This is not a new battle the alliance is waging, but with a new Legislature up for election next month and a new governor to be sworn in come January, activists are hoping they have a better shot than ever to win the aptly labelled Fight for $15.

New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning research organization which keeps track of labor statistics, among other issues estimated last year that reaching the modest goal would benefit the state’s workers.

Most of these workers hold down full-time jobs; many have children they struggle to feed, clothe and keep healthy.

The greatest number, NJPP says, are service workers, administrative support staff members, sales clerks and transportation workers. They’re your neighbors: the woman to drives your kids’ school bus, the medical assistant who gives you a flu shot, the hotel clerk who confirms your reservation.

Previous attempts to establish a livable salary for these folks have been met by disdain by Gov. Christie. But it’s getting harder – and less cost-efficient — to resist a national movement whose followers include the likes of Target, Walmart and McDonald’s.

During the Obama years, seven Nobel Prize-winners and 600 economists wrote in a joint letter that “increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”

Not only that, the experts said: Boosting workers’ salaries could stimulate the economy as low-wage earners spend their additional income, increasing the demand for goods and services.

Raising the minimum wage will have a much-needed positive effect on the state’s economy. Let’s make it happen.