Voters Approve Minimum Wage Increases in New Jersey and SeaTac, WA

National Employment Law Project

For Immediate Release: November 6, 2013

Contact: Daniel Massey, daniel@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5323

Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5307

 

Voters Approve Minimum Wage Increases in New Jersey and SeaTac, WA 

New Jersey and SeaTac lead wave of states and cities expected to raise the minimum wage over the next year

Washington, DC – Thousands of low-paid workers in the state of New Jersey and in the city of SeaTac, Washington, will receive pay increases next year after voters on Tuesday approved ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. 

“The voters understand that we cannot build a recovery on low-wage jobs – and when elected officials don’t get the message, the voters will take action to raise wages on their own,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “This is not only a big victory for thousands of workers in New Jersey and SeaTac, but also a clear signal that the public is anxious for progress to create more living wage jobs. 

The New Jersey measure, which passed with 61 percent support, will raise the state’s minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 per hour. It will also make New Jersey the eleventh state to adopt automatic annual cost-of-living increases for the minimum wage – a key reform for preventing the minimum wage from falling in value each year. The increase will raise wages for 429,000 workers in the state, or roughly 11 percent of the state’s workforce. The boost in wages is estimated to generate more than $174 million in new economic growth and support the creation of 1,500 new full-time jobs as businesses adjust to meet increased consumer demand, according to an analysis of Census data by the Economic Policy Institute.

New Jersey becomes the fourth state to raise its minimum wage this year, following New York, Connecticut, and California, which approved a minimum wage increase to $10 per hour last month. Effective January 1st, New York and New Jersey will join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in raising their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 per hour.

The SeaTac measure, which passed with 54 percent support according to early returns, will impose a $15 per hour minimum wage on all large airport-related transportation and hospitality employers in the city. The increase will raise wages for approximately 6,300 workers, yielding an estimated average pay increase of 36 percent per worker, according to an analysis of Census data by Puget Sound Sage. The measure also establishes new standards to incentivize full-time work opportunities, protect tipped workers from wage theft, and guarantee up to five days of paid sick leave. The approval of the $15 minimum wage in SeaTac will create momentum for other cities. Mayoral candidates in Seattle have proposed a similar $15 minimum wage for that city. 

When ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage reach the voters, they have in almost all cases been approved by substantial majorities. In 2004 and 2006, voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio all passed statewide initiatives to raise the minimum wage and adjust it each year based on the cost of living. Last November, voters in San Jose and Albuquerque approved, by substantial majorities, ballot measures to raise and index the citywide minimum wage.

Signature-gathering efforts are currently underway in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Alaska, and Idaho to place measures on the November 2014 ballot that would raise the minimum wage in each state. Legislative proposals to raise the minimum wage are also under consideration in Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia. 

As the unemployment rate in many states continues to slowly decline, new job growth across the country remains disproportionately concentrated in low-wage industries such as retail and food services, making an increase in the minimum wage an urgent priority for growing numbers of working families finding themselves relying on low-wage work to make ends meet.  A large share (58 percent) of new jobs created in the post-recession recovery have been low-wage occupations, according to a 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project. 

A national poll conducted in July 2013 by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of Americans, including 62 percent of Republican voters, support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The poll also found that 74 percent of Americans consider raising the minimum wage to be an important legislative priority for Congress to address over the next year.

The most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high. A recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reviews the past two decades of research on the impact of minimum wage increases on employment and concludes that “the weight of the evidence points to little or no effect of minimum wage increases on job growth.”  In February, leading mainstream economists polled by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business backed raising and indexing the minimum wage by nearly a 4 to 1 margin, saying that the benefits outweigh any costs.

The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org or www.raisetheminimumwage.org. 

###

The FactsThe Facts

$10.74

How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. Instead, itís $7.25. Learn More

Connect

Facebook Twitter YouTube