While workers were still celebrating the historic signing of laws in New Jersey and New York to raise the state wage floor to $15 per hour, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey beat down the ceiling, poised for the dubious distinction of making his state the first to veto a $15 minimum wage.
Christie has assailed the proposal, while promising more tax breaks for corporations and property owners—measures that would further exacerbate the state’s extraordinary income gap and eviscerate school funding. His quashing of the most progressive labor legislation of his tenure would be a fine parting shot as he barrels toward the White House on the Trumpwagon—especially as debate on a $15 national wage floor intensifies in Washington.
A veto would rebuff about 975,000 New Jersey workers who would benefit from the bill. It would also curtail the expansion of the portion of workers supported by a $15 base wage. If it were enacted, National Employment Law Project estimates, the $15 wage floor would widen from 18 percent to 21 percent of the nationwide workforce, following raises in New York and California.
Reflecting national trends, about half of New Jerseyans who would benefit from the raise have some college education, more than half are women, about half are people of color, and the vast majority are over 20 years old. Most are full-time employed breadwinners and are found in retail, service and hospitality, and education and health-care jobs, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). Nationwide, more than 40 percent of workers earn sub-$15 hourly wages.
The opposition lobs standard arguments about potential job loss and interference with “free markets.” In fact, the state’s wealth gap reflects government intervention in favor of the rich.