As living costs continue to rise in New Jersey, people are working longer hours for less money just to get by. This is in part due to the fact that the past 40 years wages have not kept pace with inflation.
Something must be done. There is dignity in work no matter the task. It’s a means to provide for yourself and enrich your community. The dignity is in part signified by a living wage and benefits. Anything less is an insult. We must rectify this insult.
While changing federal law is difficult, we have an opportunity here in New Jersey to make progress on labor issues under Governor Murphy, Speaker Coughlin, and State Senate President Sweeney.
We need a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers.
Gov. Murphy ran on raising the minimum wage to $15 and the Speaker has stood with the Governor pledging to pass this into law.
However, the bill introduced waters down $15 an hour to the point of a joke.
Small businesses seem to have been excluded because it might be too onerous for them to pay their workers a respectable wage. Even if we accept their premise that they operate on small margins and cannot reduce executive pay to pay their workers a dignified wage, remember their customers will also be receiving a pay raise and thus will have more money to spend at small businesses.
Workers need a raise desperately to cover the cost of food, gas, clothing, shoes, medicine, and other home goods that small businesses provide.
Teenage workers have also been excluded. Many see teenagers as workers who only need that money for a few luxuries. But youth workers need that money to pay legitimate bills. They have no desire to be a burden and want to ease their family expenses. This is especially true in Hispanic families where their paychecks often go in part to sustaining the family. Youth workers must not be treated as second-class citizens.
Such an exemption from would also likely lead to massive discrimination against older workers by employers seeking to bypass the law. This is already a serious issue in some instances that would be worsened by this bill.
This bill also excludes farmworkers. These men and women who perform the most arduous duties also should receive a higher wage. Why should they be left out? Leaving out a class of workers made up overwhelmingly by people of color is an act of blatant racism.
How are we to call ourselves the Garden State if we do not fairly compensate those who make it so?
For those who feel that blue-collar workers shouldn’t make the same money as white-collar workers, remember a rising tide lifts all boats. Thus, someone making $15 an hour when the minimum wage is near $9 an hour will be making more when the minimum wage is $15 an hour.
Working men and women cannot afford to wait for a raise. They have been waiting long enough while being exploited and deals are made to benefit those who don’t need extra protection.
I urge you to contact your legislator immediately to make your voice heard that this bill is too weak.
Can you contribute $25 to help us launch our organizing effort?
Daniel L. Ulloa
American Workforce Association