Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Buono Defends Raising N.J.'S Minimum Wage

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Buono Defends Raising N.J.'S Minimum Wage

Article excerpt

Union leaders and Democrats running a grass-roots campaign urging voters to support a minimum-wage increase acknowledge they are facing a well-funded opposition.

But they hope that stories of low-wage workers struggling to support their families on $7.25 an hour will motivate voters to turn out in support of the November ballot question.

While the Raise the Wage campaign held a rally in Passaic on Friday to highlight Latino support for increasing worker pay, a Washington, D.C., think tank on Wednesday launched a $500,000 television and radio ad campaign against the hike.

Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., a coalition of unions is running the Raise the Wage campaign to increase the hourly minimum wage to $8.25. The anti-wage hike media effort is the work of the Employment Policies Institute, a group founded by Washington public relations executive and lobbyist Richard Berman, who has ties to the restaurant industry and advocates against wage hikes across the country.

Democrats put the question on the ballot as a constitutional amendment after Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have immediately raised the wage. Christie instead suggested the increase be phased in over three years and eliminated annual hikes tied to the Consumer Price Index.

State Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat running against Christie in this year's governor's race, said New Jersey has its minimum wage set at the lowest level allowed under federal law, yet it's one of the most expensive states to live in.

"We can do better," she said. "We must do better; $7.25 an hour isn't living, it's surviving, it's subsisting. Increasing the minimum wage is about fairness. It's about justice. It's about uplifting the working people of New Jersey."

Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, said a $1 hourly increase to the minimum wage and guaranteed future hikes could be detrimental to workers. His group released an internal study that said the state may lose 4,700 jobs if the rate is increased. …

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