A minimum wage increase is badly needed, but since it’s going nowhere in a Republican-controlled House, low-wage workers have to turn to the state and local level. Next up, New Jersey, where voters will have a chance next week to put a minimum wage hike in their state constitution.
A measure on the ballot would raise the state minimum wage to $8.25 (the federal level is currently $7.25) and tie it to inflation so that workers didn’t have to wait years until the politics lined up for the state legislature to pass an increase and the governor to sign it. The fact that this is going to a vote actually comes out of just such a failure:
The measure has a huge margin of support, according to two late-September polls. Some 65 percent of registered voters said they will vote for the measure with just 12 percent planning to vote against it, according to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll of nearly 700 registered voters. A Rutgers poll released at the same time found even broader support, albeit by a similar margin. Voters in that poll of 925 adult New Jerseyans supported the measure 76 percent to 22 percent.The ballot question is the result of a fight between the state’s all-Democratic legislature and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Earlier this year, Christie vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $8.50, with automatic adjustments tied to inflation increases. That bill, he said, was bad for the economy. Instead, Christie offered to raise in the minimum wage to $8.25 over three years and increase the earned income tax credit. Democrats said no thanks and instead voted to pose the question to voters.
It’s really too bad the proposed increase is only to $8.25, which is still a low, low wage, especially in an expensive state like New Jersey. Nonetheless, it’s an improvement, and should translate to a raise not just for people currently making $7.25 an hour but also for people making slightly more, who are likely to get raises as the minimum wage goes up.
This article was originally printed on Daily Kos Labor on October 31, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos.