When we fight, we win: $15 minimum will lift all boats! Wage hike becomes law in NJ

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New Jersey will phase in a $15 minimum wage, with increases beginning in July 2019. The council and its unions fought long and hard for wage hike, recently signed into law by Governor Murphy.

“This will lift all boats and directly benefit more than a million workers and their families, including many of our members,” said Wilfredo Larancuent, President of the SEIU NJ State Council, comprised of unions representing more than 23,000 service workers statewide. “This was an important promise kept by the Governor and we applaud legislative leaders who supported the bill. It is important step forward and will make a difference to the workers who undergird our economy in one of the most expensive regions of the country.”

The minimum wage in NJ will rise from from $8.85 to $10 per hour on July 1 and then increase it by $1 at the beginning of each year until hitting the benchmark of $15 in 2024. The minimum for agricultural workers would rise to $12.50 at the time. Seasonal workers and employees of businesses with five workers or less would reach the $15 minimum by 2026.

“This is not going to make you rich but it’s going to help. People are living paycheck to paycheck and working two or three jobs, said Angela Bialorucki, a member of Workers United. Bialorucki was laid off from her $11.15-per-hour job at a clothing distribution center in Bergen County at the end of the 2018 when the work was outsourced to a third-party shop that paid minimum wage. “If we’d had a higher minimum wage before it could have leveled the playing field,” she said. 

Bialorucki said she hoped groups like farmworkers could be included in the future.  “It’s not a perfect bill, but if we don’t start somewhere we’re never going to get anywhere,” she said.

“Being a single mom supporting two kids, everything lies on your shoulders,” said Cheryl Roberts, a certified nursing assistant in Jersey City. “It’s really tough when I can’t provide for them in the ways I want to, like buying new book bags and school supplies.  Raising the minimum wage to $15 will make a big difference for families like mine.  It will let me focus more on taking better care of my health, so I can be there for my children and my patients.”

“This legislation will have a profound impact on the lives of one million New Jersey workers, their families and communities,” said Milly Silva, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU.  “A $15 minimum wage will be a boon to our state’s economy and have an especially significant impact on women, people of color, and young workers.  The Fight for $15 and a Union movement has never been just about raising wages, but about ensuring that every worker can join together in a union for rights, dignity, and respect.  To this end, our movement continues as we fight to secure the rights of all workers to organize.”