The vote comfortably approving the minimum wage increase is a big win for economic opportunity in New Jersey. On January 1, hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans who work in low-wage jobs but barely survive will see an increase in their wages to $8.25 an hour, an increase that will be adjusted for inflation annually thereafter.
New Jersey's decision to raise the minimum wage is important for several reasons:
• It recognizes the desperate economic conditions of -- and gives a modest but meaningful raise to -- 241,000 low-wage workers trying to survive in one of the highest-cost regions of the nation on a full-time wage of $15,080 a year (for those lucky enough to be working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year). It is likely to boost the wages of another 188,000 low-wage workers who earn less than $9.25 an hour earning.
• It acknowledges that episodic increases aren't the best way to keep low-wage workers from falling even further behind and instead ensures that the purchasing power of the minimum wage remains steady. (Today's minimum wage of $7.25, for example, has already eroded to buying only $6.43 worth of goods and services since 2007.)
• It takes an issue of basic fairness out of the unpredictable and untidy process of politics and gamesmanship that characterize so much of today's governance.
Perhaps just as importantly, the "yes" vote on Question 2 helps puncture a hole in the mythology advanced by business lobby.
The same tired half-truths or fictions are rolled out by these groups whether the issue is the minimum wage, family leave, earned sick days or even basic workplace health and safety protections. In an effort to spark fear in the hearts of New Jersey voters, the business lobby invariably says the proposal at hand will kill jobs, harm the economy and make New Jersey less competitive. The good news we're seeing proof of tonight is that the public just isn't buying it anymore.