To commemorate Women's Equality Day — the anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the United States — elected officials joined women from a variety of organizations on the steps of the Statehouse, in Trenton, to push voters to approve a minimum wage increase this November.
Roughly 60 percent of minimum-wage workers in the state are women, according to Working Families United for New Jersey, and advocates said boosting the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 with automatic cost-of-living increases every year would give those women a much needed economic boost.
"It is immoral that we allow so many workers to live on $7.25 an hour," said state Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, in a statement. "That is why I support raising New Jersey's minimum wage. It will improve the economy, because increased wages will be spent locally on groceries, clothes and other staples to improve the quality-of-life for those that earn the least among us in New Jersey."
The debate over the minimum wage has divided workers and business owners, with the latter group arguing that an increase in the minimum wage could lead to tens of thousands of lost jobs over the next decade. Instead, business advocates have pushed for a more gradual increase, rather than an automatic one every single year.
But others, including Camden Mayor Dana Redd, argue that an annual adjustment will help minimum wage workers in the state afford the items needed to keep their families afloat.
"Every day in my city, I see workers earning the minimum wage to support their families. Many of the workers are female and female heads of households," Redd said in a statement. "It's incredibly important that New Jersey support the ballot question to raise New Jersey's minimum wage. It provides an annual cost-of-living adjustment to keep pace with the increasing cost of basic necessities and is a step in the right direction."