Both supporters and opponents of a constitutional amendment to raise the state's minimum wage by $1 to $8.25 have just a week left to make their cases before voters decide its fate through an Election Day ballot question.
Last week, a coalition of state business groups released a new television spot featuring several Jersey Shore business owners who said the proposed hike would devastate them. In addition to the issues it takes with the measure tying future increases to the consumer price index, the coalition repeatedly has said that raising the wage could force employers to cut jobs and reduce hours.
Today, the New Jersey Main Street Alliance released its version of the story with a web-only video featuring the testimony of several small business owners who claim that not only is raising the minimum wage the right thing to do, but it's also the financially smart decision.
"It's unconscionable to me that you can ask someone to show up to work for $7.25 an hour," Kelly Conklin, owner of Kenilworth-based woodworking company Foley-Waite Associates said this morning in a conference call.
Conklin, who is featured in the video, said he's long been a supporter of higher minimum wages and the idea that there's so much discussion over whether to raise it $8.25 an hour is "kind of embarrassing."
Adam Woods, owner of Camden Printworks, said he puts little faith in the claim from business groups that a wage hike could force job cuts.
"Part of running a business is figuring out how to make ends meet," he said.
Woods, who also is in the video, said his support for the measure is rooted not only in his belief that it's good for the economy, but also from his experience as an employer in Camden, which he described as "far and away the poorest city in the state of New Jersey."
"While I appreciate how this makes economic sense, there's also a larger social question here," Woods said.
Both employers said they've long been paying their employees well over the minimum wage, with Conklin estimating that he pays his around double the minimum and Woods noting that he recently hired someone at around $10 per hour.
Advocates of raising the wage say that by putting more money into workers' pockets, business owners will in turn see more money spent in their shops.
"Consumer spending is at the heart of our economy," said Holly Sklar, director of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said this morning. "Workers and consumers are not two different species."
Jon Whiten, deputy director for liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, agreed, adding that most polls he's seen show that business owners are more concerned with a lack of sales as opposed to labor costs.
"In other words, what New Jersey businesses really need are more customers who have more money to spend," Whiten said.
Whiten added that raising the wage "has no discernible effect on employment levels."
The video has been posted to the alliance's YouTube page.
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