Gov. Phil Murphy reaffirmed his commitment to raising New Jersey's minimum wage to $15 an hour and implementing a statewide paid sick leave program at a roundtable discussion Monday at Passaic City Hall.
Murphy said he considered minimum wage and paid sick leave “twinned realities,” and dedicated his comments to addressing criticisms of the policies.
“Contrary to some myths that are repeated often, [minimum wage] isn’t just a teenager phenomenon,” Murphy said, adding that 80 to 90 percent of citizens affected by a minimum wage increase are over the age of 20 and disproportionately women.
“We could really use $15 an hour. I came back [to] New Jersey from elsewhere and I was unemployed or underemployed for seven years,” said Natalie Hoffman, a library assistant at Rutherford Public Library who attended the roundtable. “If I didn’t have family I would be on the street.”
Business leaders recently voiced concern over Murphy’s progressive economic agenda. The New Jersey Business & Industry Association recently polled its members about the potential hike and reported a majority of employers said they would cut hours or benefits to compensate.
“My fear is that we’re going to just look at annual rate of pay per hour without a discussion on total compensation,” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka told NJBIZ earlier this month.
Siekerka said her organization had “room to have a discussion” on minimum wage and recently outlined ways to make a minimum wage raise possible as long as there were “economic off-ramps” in the event the economy does not get better.
Murphy comments today addressed some of these concerns.
“The notion of a sticker shocker — going from $8.60 on Monday to $15 on Tuesday, we accept that is not realistic,” Murphy said.
If successful, New Jersey would join California, New York City (for employers of 11 or more) and the District of Columbia to commit to a $15-an-hour minimum wage.