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'Insulted' by business groups' comments, Sweeney celebrates raising of minimum wage

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Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) at the Working Families United press conference on Nov. 6, 2013.
Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) at the Working Families United press conference on Nov. 6, 2013. - (Andrew George / NJBIZ)

Joining union and community leaders this morning at a church in Trenton's Chambersburg neighborhood, Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) called the passing of a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 the “conclusion of an amazing journey."

"This was a great victory for the working class of the state," Sweeney today said at the press conference held by Working Families United.

On Tuesday, voters resoundingly opted to raise the wage by $1 through a ballot question and tie future increases to the consumer price index. The measure succeeded by a margin of over 20 percentage points.

Through aggressive advertisement and outreach efforts, a coalition of business groups around the state had pressed hard to defeat the wage hike, claiming it would hurt small businesses and force employers to reduce hours and ultimately, cut jobs.

Today, Sweeney said he was "insulted" by those repeated claims, chalking them up to nothing more than scare tactics from the business groups. He said he remembered similar false rhetoric regarding the fight for paid family leave several years back that he says never panned out.

Sweeney spoke to the claim of several business leaders that they were not opposed to raising the minimum wage, but just against amending the constitution to do so.

"You had seven years to do it and you didn't," Sweeney said.

And as for tying future increases to the consumer price index, Sweeney praised the notion of revisiting the wage yearly.

"That's the nice thing," Sweeney said. "We don't have to ever wait again."

State AFL-CIO president Charles Wowkanech added that a "great deal" of small business owners who came out in support of the measure helped to drive the message home.

The new wage rate will go into effect Jan. 1.

Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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