Voice of the People: It’s Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

Voice of the People by James J. Devineby James J. Devine

On Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will decide whether to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 with automatic annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index built into an amendment of the state Constitution.

Democrats in the state Legislature put the question to voters after Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed their effort to pass an increase through legislation.

Raising the minimum wage would help improve the standard of living for employees while living on the minimum wage currently keeps people at poverty levels.

U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker and gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono — both Democrats — both trumpeted the need for New Jerseyans to pass the ballot question that would raise the state’s minimum wage because the middle class is shrinking.

“It’s hard to imagine that in 2013, people working have to live on $7.25 an hour,” Buono told union leaders assembled earlier this month at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 456 headquarters in North Brunswick. “That’s not a living wage. That’s a starving wage.”

Buono, a state senator from Middlesex County, slammed the Republican governor for investing “in millionaires instead of the middle class.”

Booker said that in the Great Recession, middle-wage jobs were replaced with minimum-wage jobs, citing a recent report that found a record 24.7 percent of New Jersey’s population — 2.1 million residents — was considered poor in 2011.

“People all over the state, what they are seeing is: Everything is going up,” Booker said. “Rent is going up, gas is going up. Everything is going up but their wages.”

While numerous polls show that a majority of New Jersey voters support raising the minimum wage, but greedy Republican and business groups have vowed to campaign against the proposed amendment.

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