Should New Jersey municipalities set their own minimum wages?
Some lawmakers think each of New Jersey's 565 municipalities should be permitted to establish its own individual minimum wages.
Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) and Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) are pushing legislation that would do just that, but leaders in the business community said multiple minimum wages would lead to an unworkable patchwork and a logistical nightmare.
"New Jersey is one of the costliest states to live in and it's been estimated that a wage earner in a family of four would need well over $20 an hour to make ends meet so this is merely a realistic look by a region or a city of how to set a minimum wage so that people can stay in those communities where they work," Gusciora said.
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) is urging the Assembly Labor Committee to vote no on the legislation (A-3912) that would allow municipalities, counties and other governing bodies to enact their own individual minimum wage laws.
The bill was scheduled to be considered by the committee on March 5, but a snow storm forced a cancellation.
"The bill would explicitly authorize all local governing bodies to set their own wages," said Stefanie Riehl, NJBIA assistant vice president of employment and labor policy. "In theory you could absolutely have 565 different minimum wages and you could also have 21 counties weighing in as well."
Under the legislation, the minimum wage could only be increased. No municipality would be permitted to enact a wage that is lower than New Jersey's current constitutionally protected minimum wage of $8.38 an hour. That wage is also adjusted annually based on the rate of inflation.
"I understand the concerns of the NJBIA, but I wouldn't envision this being done statewide, only in select municipalities or localities where an extra wage would be needed," Gusciora explained.
According to the assemblyman, his bill is modeled after a recent ordinance passed in Seattle that moved up the minimum wage in that city to $15 over the next decade.
"It's going to create a lot of confusion if municipalities each have their own minimum wages. Employers with multiple locations are going to have to pay their employees different wages for doing the exact same job," Riehl said.
This bill should be a concern for everyone, Riehl said, because businesses have a fixed amount of money for operations. If they are required to spend more on wages companies could reduce employees' hours or be forced to pass the added cost onto the consumer.
"It's America. There are two views and hopefully we both respect the majority," Gusciora said.