(TRENTON) – New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Connecticut House Speaker Christopher Donovan have joined together to promote increasing the minimum wage in each of their states.
The three Speakers penned a joint op-ed that ran Sunday in The Star-Ledger and Connecticut Post and Monday in the Albany Times Union on the advantages of increasing the minimum wage.
Oliver is among the sponsors of an Assembly Democratic bill (A-2162) to increase New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 and require the rate be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
The op-ed read as follows:
“Across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, far too many working families continue to struggle to make ends meet. That’s why, as legislative leaders of these three states, we are joining together to raise the minimum wage and help foster broad-based economic recovery.
“In this time when the nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, when the middle class is dwindling, we must begin to recapture the spirit of shared prosperity and the dignity of work by raising the minimum wage.
“The gap between the rich and poor has risen dramatically over the past four decades, as more and more Americans work harder to make less. Over this period, the value of the minimum wage has declined dramatically. If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation since the late 1960’s it would be more than $10. Instead, Congress has acted to raise the minimum wage only three times in the last thirty years, leaving our lowest paid workers with just $7.25 an hour, or roughly $15,000 for an individual working full-time for the entire year.
“With the cost of living so high, it is absurd to expect a working person, let alone a working family, to afford rent, groceries, clothing, heating, phone, transportation, day care – and be able to save for the future – on $290 per week. It is time that we re-assessed the value of work. And while Connecticut is one of the 18 states with a minimum wage above the federal level, at $8.25 an hour it still keeps working families stuck in poverty.
“In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut we are also failing our working families because we do not increase the minimum wage each year to keep up with the rising cost of living as 10 other states do. Last month more than 1.4 million low-wage workers across the country got a raise of around 30 cents as minimum wage in their states rose to keep up with inflation. But in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, minimum wage workers saw their paychecks stagnate and their buying power decline in the face of rising prices.
“According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the increased consumer spending generated by raising the federal minimum wage toward $10 in three steps over the next three years would generate more than $25 billion in GDP and create the equivalent of more than 100,000 full-time jobs. If we want to rebuild a strong, stable, growing economy, we need jobs that can support families and get consumers back into stores, purchasing goods and services again. That’s stimulus that kick-starts our economy without adding to the state budget deficit.
“Strengthening the buying power of low-wage workers is especially critical given that the majority of jobs that have been created in the wake of the recession are concentrated in low- and mid-wage occupations. A family that was once supported by a modest construction job is now left with a low-wage service-sector job that cannot cover the bills. In fact, paychecks are lower now than they have been at any point in more than half a century: wages and salaries are now the smallest share of the economy in more than 50 years, while corporate profits are now the largest.
“During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama endorsed raising the federal minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 and then indexing it to rise with inflation. While we continue to push for federal legislation to raise wages for workers across the nation, families in our states cannot wait.
“Momentum behind raising the minimum wage only continues to grow. Recently, Mitt Romney indicated his support for raising the minimum wage, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for increasing New York’s minimum wage. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has said he would consider a proposal. Polling shows that more than two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents. That’s why our efforts are backed by a broad array of labor, civil rights, faith, community and women’s groups who believe that people who work for a living should be able to make a living from work.
“Hard working men and women deserve good, family-supporting jobs. Raising our state minimum wages will be a key legislative priority as we set out to rebuild an economy that works for everyone.”
NY: Albany Times Union
CT: CT Post
NJ: Newark Star Ledger