On July 1st, 2019, over 200,000 New Jersey workers received a raise to $10, the first wage increase in the state’s multi-year move toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage by January of 2024. Governor Phil Murphy signed the new wage into law in early 2019, which will make New Jersey one of only five states plus the District of Columbia to have enacted a $15 minimum. DC will reach that mark next July, followed by California in 2022.
Progressive groups have fought hard for the higher wage, indeed it was one of Gov. Murphy’s campaign promises, while many business organizations opposed it. These organizations claim the wage hike will lead to higher costs for consumers and could force some businesses to close, while supporters claim it will both make it easier for workers to make ends meet and boost the economy as more people have disposable income.
New Jersey’s labor commissioner and attorney general have warned that they will be vigilant in implementing the new law:
“We will enforce these laws according to their terms, and we will not tolerate efforts to skirt labor protections,” the letter reads. “In particular, we have made it a priority to combat wage theft and employee misclassification — the practice by which certain employers have classified workers as independent contractors instead of employees, and thus deprived them of the statutory rights to which they are entitled. We will use our broad authority under the law to vigorously pursue the misclassification of workers, especially when the practice is designed to evade the protections our new minimum wage law promises.”
The increase does not immediately apply to all workers, however, as seasonal workers, small business employees, and farm workers did not receive an increase on July 1st, while tipped restaurant employees will receive a 50-cent raise to $2.63, with tips required to bring them to the current minimum. Small business employees and seasonal workers will reach $15 in 2026, while agricultural employees will reach $12.50 in 2024, with options for further increases in the future.
Legislators have been acutely aware that the new minimum wage could have significant impacts on some employers and have made strides to try to alleviate such impacts. The NJ Senate Labor Committee has moved a bill that would provide as much as $10 million in state tax credits to businesses that employ teenagers, while legislators have also added $65 million to the proposed state budget to cover the cost of the increases in the following areas:
-$20 million for direct service providers who work with the disabled
-$15 million for nursing home employees
-$21 million to cover a fee-for-service rate increase to $19 an hour for personal care assistants, including home health aides
-$9 million in higher vouchers to pay for child care for Work First New Jersey recipients
O’Dea, Colleen. “NJ’s Minimum Wages Rises to $10 Today in First Step Toward $15.” NJSpotlight, NJSpotlight, 1 July 2019, https://www.njspotlight.com/stories/19/06/30/njs-minimum-wages-rises-to-10-today-in-first-step-toward-15/.