Friday Oct. 6, 2017 – South Brunswick NJ – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy joined more than a hundred warehouse workers and their allies outside a South Brunswick distribution center on Friday in calling for an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
“We have to make sure workers’ rights are protected and that means a minimum wage of $15,” said Murphy. The candidate said New Jersey’s economy had been “stuck in the mud” and that would change with new leadership in “32 days.” Workers chanted “quince” – fifteen in Spanish – during the protest in front of GIII Apparel distribution center designed to draw attention to low wages in New Jersey’s burgeoning warehouse corridor and to reaffirm the SEIU NJ State Council’s support of Murphy in the November 7 election.
“Warehouse companies make promises to create middle class jobs and then they break those promises, said Wilfredo Larancuent President of state council and secretary treasurer of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, which represents workers at GIII. Because of its proximity to Port Newark and a network of rails and highways, the state has one of the largest concentration of distribution centers in the nation. The sector continues to grow as giant names in retail move toward more on-line sales and direct customer delivery. But workers most often don’t share in the booming new retail economy, with many making less than $12 per hour, which doesn’t go far in an expensive state like New Jersey.
“Distribution warehouses make e-commerce happen. Warehouse workers deserve a living wage,” said Anthony Banos of Sayerville, who has worked at the apparel warehouse for seven years. Maria Renjifo, of Perth Amboy, has been a warehouse worker for 8 years. “We handle high-profile clothing for well-known brands,” she said. “Yet I barely make $12.00 an hour…These multi-billion dollar companies need to pay us a living wage.”
Many warehouse workers have no job security as temp agencies are used to fill vacancies, often at minimum wage; they have erratic hours as companies demand “flexibility” in filling fast-delivery orders. Murphy has pledged to sign legislation that would increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.44 to $15 per hour. It is estimated the move would boost the pay of nearly a million workers in the state. Governor Christie, whose lieutenant governor is running against Murphy on the GOP line, vetoed such a measure last year.
“It’s been ten ears since we voted to raise the minimum wage, all we’re asking for is fairness,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, a Democrat from South Jersey who attended the rally.