AFL-CIO, Worker Rights Group Hit Christie Veto of $15 N.J. Minimum Wage

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

To nobody’s great surprise – but also to the outrage of workers and women’s groups – Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., vetoed a raise in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech blasted his move.

The governor killed the measure, which the state AFL-CIO helped push through the Democratic-run legislature, by saying it would hurt small business. New Jersey’s minimum wage is now $8.38 an hour, more than a dollar above the federal minimum.

Christie called the new hike a political ploy. Some New Jersey political leaders said his veto sets up a statewide constitutional amendment referendum next year on raising the wage.

“Despite having a constitutional mandate in place, the legislature now wants to increase the minimum wage by almost 80 percent just three years later,” Christie claimed. “While this bill’s proposed increase surely is responsive to demands from Democrat legislators’ political patrons, it fails to consider the capacity of businesses, especially small businesses, to absorb the substantially increased labor costs it will impose.”

 

“Gov. Christie’s veto of a phased in $15 minimum wage is sadly not surprising given his endorsement of Donald Trump, who has said ‘wages are too high’,” Wowkanech retorted in a statement. “This is yet another example of the governor putting politics before the best interests of our state.”

Christie was the first prominent Republican elected official to endorse Trump, after Christie’s own campaign for the GOP nomination fell flat in the New Hampshire primary. Christie later drew universal bipartisan derision for kowtowing to the business mogul in hopes of obtaining the Republican vice-presidential nomination. That attempt failed, too.

“A minimum wage increase is not a matter of low-wage workers looking for a handout, as Christie would have us believe,” Wowkanech continued. “In fact, an overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans understand raising the minimum wage is sound public policy that supports workers as well as businesses, which enjoy the benefit of greater consumer demand.

“Christie will repeat right-wing talking points about costs spiraling out of control and a minimum wage being bad for business, but the facts are simply not on his side. After New Jersey voters approved a minimum wage increase in 2013, state unemployment dropped and businesses continued to grow. It is clearly possible to raise wages while being sensitive to the concerns of business as was the goal of the legislation” the governor “shamefully vetoed.”

Christie Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, called the governor’s veto “wrongheaded economically.” She calculated it would hurt 1 million low-wage workers in the Garden State.

“Since November 2012, when the Fight for $15 began, more than 50 states and localities have raised their minimum wage, including the 16 jurisdictions which have approved wage floors of $15” due to gridlock on Capitol Hill over raising the federal minimum, now $7.25, Owens added.

“Although Gov. Christie’s veto...is unfortunate, advocates and voters in New Jersey will have another opportunity to put the state on the right economic path. Plans are underway to place the minimum wage on the 2017 ballot, and with momentum continuing on the side of the low-wage workers, this new proposal will likely succeed at the polls,” Owens predicted. 

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Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

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