EDITORIAL: Movement on minimum wage needed
Elected officials must be held accountable to promises of increase
On Jan. 1, 2019, New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase. While the increase is by no means the act of state legislators or Gov. Phil Murphy (D) upholding his campaign promise, it is the result of New Jersey’s constitution, which requires the state’s minimum wage to be adjusted to consumer price index data. The minimum wage ought to be raised as the prices of goods and services increase, but it must also be set at a livable rate that is reflective of the realities of the economy.
Murphy’s campaign placed an emphasis on raising the minimum wage to $15 once in office and, while in office, has repeatedly said it is a top priority. Both Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) have also publicly claimed to support the increase as well. Murphy and democratic legislative leaders claimed the increase would be addressed in the spring, but it has since been pushed back to the summer, then fall — it has been made clear that we should not expect a bill before the end of the year.
New Jerseyans want increases in the minimum wage. 74 percent of adults are supportive of an increase, according to a released in October. Even among Republicans in the State, 49 percent support increasing the minimum wage while 44 percent support the status quo.
The national trend among businesses of redefining employment in which salaried employment has decreased and hourly employment has increased to cut the costs of benefits has exacerbated the problem of working-class poverty and unmet standards of living. Employment is not a solution to poverty. In 2016, roughly 7.6 million Americans were considered among the “working poor” with the majority more than 35 years old and fewer than 5 in 100 between the ages of 16 and 19.
Of those who make minimum wage, more than half are prime-working-age adults between the ages of 25 and 54, almost two-thirds work full time, more than half are women, nearly half have some college education and 28 percent have children. It is misleading and degrading to claim that minimum wage workers are just a bunch of kids who do not deserve to make enough money to keep their heads above water.
In addition, a gradual increase in minimum wage to a $15 rate would not even fully close the productivity-wage gap in America. The Magna Carta of labor contracts, the Treaty of Detroit, not only included benefits of health care, unemployment and pensions, but it also included wage adjustments for cost-of-living and an annual improvement factor, which increases workers' wages based on the economy’s productivity growth. Productivity has increased 77 percent since 1973, yet the national hourly pay has only increased 12 percent. Were wages to match productivity, the minimum wage would be more than $20 an hour.
Some claim an increase to $15 would hurt small businesses. While this has validity, the gradual rise of the minimum wage and the potential increase in spending in the local economy can mitigate the costs of the small businesses on main street. More needs to be done to aid in the welfare of small businesses. More needs to be done to increase competition and decrease market power of large corporations. Small businesses are already fighting a losing war with elected officials turning their backs on the value of competitive markets. More needs to be done to aid the hourly worker and small businesses.
Families, women, adults and those with college education are making a poverty wage in New Jersey. The promises of elected officials have been proved to be hollow. The words of the governor, senate president and speaker of the house are followed by inactivity and avoidance. Accountability is needed.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.