On November 4th New Jersey residents voted in favor of raising the state minimum wage to $8.25 an hour. Voters overwhelmingly supported the raise, which additionally amends the state Constitution to adjust the minimum wage in tandem with the rise of inflation.
The results of the public ballot will amend Article I of the New Jersey State Constitution. The amendment begins by stating its intentions rather triumphantly:
All workers employed in the State have a right to be paid wages that are not oppressive or unreasonable and are sufficient to safeguard their health, efficiency, and general well-being and to protect them, as well as their employers, from the effects of serious and unfair competition resulting from wage levels detrimental to their health, efficiency and well-being.” It then requires a wage of no less than $8.25 per hours for the first 40 hours in a week. Every hour over 40 is to be compensated at the standard premium of one and half times the normal rate.
[box box title=”What is the minimum wage in New Jersey?” box_color=”#4fbbca” title_color=”#000000″]Currently, the minimum wage in New Jersey is $7.25 per hour (as of November 13, 2013). Effective January 1, 2014, the minimum wage will increase to $8.25 per hour. The minimum wage will from 2014 forward be tied to increases in living expenses, meaning that the minimum wage will likely increase every year going forward.[/box]
Perhaps the most important feature of this amendment is that it ties the new minimum wage to the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI measures the change over time of the price level of consumer goods. It’s a rough estimate for the cost of living, which has been shown to rise yearly. New Jersey’s new Constitutional amendment stipulates that every year, on September 30, the CPI will be measured and the minimum wage will rise in tandem with it. For example, if the CPI on September 30, 2014 rises to 1.2%, the minimum wage, beginning January 1, 2015, would rise to $8.34. If the federal minimum wage were to rise above that mandated by this amendment, that federal rate would be subject to the same mandatory increases.
The amendment is a phenomenal win for workers in New Jersey, who can now count on a wage floor that will not fall out beneath them, as the years pass and the price tags rise on essential life products.
The new minimum wage will make life a little easier for the 50,000 workers in the state of New Jersey that earn the minimum wage. For these workers a dollar increase per hours will make it that much easier to maintain economic stability.
Raising the minimum wage makes economic sense, not only in terms of allowing minimum wage workers afford to live, but also in spurring economic growth. A consumer base with more money to spend means stronger consumer demand: in other words, more customers. More workers will be able to buy much needed goods and services they could not afford before the increase due to the rise in the minimum wage. Consumer demand is one of the most crucial factors in strengthening our economy.
On January 1, 2014, when the law goes into effect, these workers should be receiving raises. In the event that an employer fails to pay its employees, New Jersey employment attorneys will be ready to file suit on for employees who are paid under the increased minimum wage. Victims of illegal pay practices have two years in New Jersey to file suit, collectively or individually, against their employers under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law and the New Jersey Wage Payment Law.
Pennsylvania also has state laws requiring the payment of all wages due, such as the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law. Pennsylvania minimum wage remains at the federally required bare minimum of $7.25.
Swartz Swidler, attorney’s representing victims of illegal pay practices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are ready to fight to protect the improved rights of New Jersey workers.