NJWFA Testimony on $15 Minimum Wage Bill

Below is the prepared testimony, on A15, delivered to the Assembly Labor Committee on Thursday, January 24, 2019.

My name is Analilia Mejia, and I am the director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, it is a member and affiliate organization with over 50,0000 direct members whose motto is “Vote Your Values”.  Our organization works in coordination with the Raise NJ table, a partnership of volunteer activist and base building organizations that have been conducting voter contact, hosting rallies and working with municipalities and county boards in support of raising the minimum wage and working in partnership to move local anti-wage theft measures.

I’d like to first commend you for your efforts in moving NJ working families towards a more family sustaining and protected wage. Currently, close to 1 million NJ workers make less than $15 an hour, with many toiling at the current minimum wage of $8.85, barely making over $18,400 a year and often not making ends meet. When you consider the average cost of a studio apartment in New Jersey is $1,408 a month or $16,896 a year, you quickly realize there’s very little left to engage in the economy. Further, because of lax anti wage theft provisions, NJ workers may be losing millions in unpaid wages. You can change all of that today.

First, I’d like to urge you to consider expanding the $15 in 5 year provision to all workers. A $15 minimum wage by 2024 would give approximately one in four of New Jersey’s workforce a desperately needed pay raise, while giving employers a fair and predictable phase in period. According to a recent article by the Star Ledger, many of these workers are in service industry jobs critical to New Jersey and our state economy.

Our fight for a $15 minimum wage is about doing the right thing for those who suffered the most.  According to the United Way’s ALICE report, at least 27%  of Garden States residents barely make enough to make ends meet. Many counties across the state, in fact, have more than a quarter of An analysis by NJPP finds that these workers are mostly women, people of color, adults and heads of households who have to work two or three jobs jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table.

You’ve heard the statistics:

  • 91% of the affected workers are adults 20 years old or older and 44% are adults over the age of 40.
  • The majority of affected workers are also currently working full time, with 61% working 35 hours a week or more; and an additional 27% working between 20 and 34 hours a week.
  • Only 12% are working part time jobs at less than 20 hours a week.
  • In all, more than 400,000 children, 21 percent of all kids in New Jersey have at least one parent who would benefit.
  • Most workers who would benefit are people of color: Even though they make up just 41% of the workforce, people of color make up 51% of affected workers. (NJPP)
  • Although African Americans account for 13 percent of total households in New Jersey, according to estimates from the United Way of Northern New Jersey, the make up 1/4 of low wage workers. (United Way Northern New Jersey, ALICE report)

In addition to your support for raising the minimum wage, I would like to also urge your support and commitment for the Anti-Wage theft bill sponsored by Senator Weinberg and Assemblywoman Quijano as a comprehensive fix for low wage workers.  The practice of wage theft is most rampant amongst low wage workers, making the need to move a strong wage enforcement bill a necessity in any minimum wage campaign.

This action is of particular significance to tipped workers, who are particularly vulnerable to wage theft since they are dependent on employers to verify and ensure that the difference between tipped wages and the mandated minimum wage is paid.

Not only are women and people of color the most likely to be paid poverty wages, they’re also the most likely to have those wages stolen. And for women, too often they are paid less than men to do the same job.

We urge you all to vote in support of this bill and begin to improve the economic standing of many across the state.

Thank you
Analilia Mejia
NJ Working Families Alliance