A bill to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey has moved one step closer to becoming reality. On Thursday, February 23, 2012 the Assembly Labor Committee gave its approval to a measure that will increase the state minimum wage $1.25 from $7.25 to $8.50. It also calls for adjustments in the rate in line with the Consumer Price Index.
Supporters of the bill claim this will awaken an economic boon; when workers earn more they buy more. With many New Jerseyans looking for work, opponents say that this measure will bankrupt small business and halt job growth. Governor Chris Christie (R), who is usually pretty vocal with his opinion, has not taken a stance yet on whether or not he is for the bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman and Speaker Sheila Oliver (D). So what does a raise in minimum wage mean for the workers of New Jersey? Will it bring more heartache and unemployment or will it help workers be able to afford rent, food and clothes in the great, but expensive Garden State?
“This is economic stimulus and a recognition that thousands of households in New Jersey are struggling to subsist on minimum wage jobs that do not allow them to support their families,” Oliver said in a press release from the Assembly Democrats. “This is also about livable wages. Quite simply, we should all support economic stimulus, increased consumer spending and livable wages.”
The idea of a living wage is a dream for many in Newark, NJ. Most rent in Newark runs around the $1000 a month range. That means under the new bill, a worker will have to work over two weeks to pay the rent. To the average working-class person, $8.50 does not represent a livable wage. In fact, Poverty in America’s Living Wage Calculator states that a single person living in Newark needs to earn $10.66 an hour in order to have a decent quality of life. A single mother with just one kid; she needs to bring home a whopping $18.68 an hour.
A raise in the minimum wage does not tackle the real problems of Newark and most other parts of New Jersey: jobs. Couple that with a failure to provide affordable housing, reforming the costs of education and thereby lowering property taxes; this bill seems like a little too late. This minimum wage bill is useful but it is merely a band-aid for a 3 inch deep gash in our economy.
Like a well-oiled machine, our New Jersey politicians, both Democrat and Republican, will continue campaigning through legislation instead of representing the best interests of the people and passing laws and measures to help the working poor in Newark and all of New Jersey.