Higher Wage Is Approved in New Jersey

The New York Times

Some employers in New Jersey, like Joseph Olivo, did not wait for the results of the vote on Tuesday to start preparing for the state’s minimum wage to rise by $1 an hour next year.

For months, polls had signaled that voters would most likely approve an amendment to the State Constitution that would take the minimum hourly wage to $8.25 on Jan. 1 and then step it up annually to keep pace with inflation. Indeed, the measure passed easily on Tuesday: With 99 percent of precincts reporting, voters approved it by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent, an outcome that pleased labor leaders and dismayed representatives of the business community.

Business leaders and Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, argued that the measure would harm the state’s fragile economy and could cause the loss of jobs. The proposal was put forth by Democrats after the governor blocked legislation that would have brought about a similar increase in the minimum wage.


But advocates for low-wage workers countered that academic studies show that raising the minimum wage has only minor effects on employment and provides stimulus to the economy by putting more money in the hands of people most likely to spend it.

Nonetheless, small businesses have already begun looking for ways to offset the increase in labor costs.

Mr. Olivo said he worried that his marketing-services company in Moorestown would have trouble competing with businesses in states where the minimum wage is no higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. He said he had already found ways to replace some workers with machines.

A month ago, he bought a $23,000 device that affixes adhesive backing to promotional materials, a task that had been done manually by two temporary workers. A Republican and strong supporter of Mr. Christie’s, Mr. Olivo called the measure “something well intended that is going to end up hurting the people it’s trying to help.”

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association estimates that the increase will cost the state 31,000 jobs over 10 years. But Paul K. Sonn, a legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, dismissed the idea that New Jersey was taking a radical step.

“What’s striking about the New Jersey proposal is how really modest it is,” Mr. Sonn said, citing other states’ proposals to raise the minimum wage to $10 or more. “This is just a very small first step.”

About 50,000 workers in the state earn the minimum wage.

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