Murphy wants $15 min. wage by year-end. Let's do it
Star-Ledger Opinion Editorial.
By Donald Norcross
The best social program is a good job with fair wages and the dignity that comes with it.
Last week, Governor Murphy reiterated that raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour is one of his top three legislative priorities this year, and I not only applaud his strong stance, but urge my friends in the state legislature and my colleagues in Congress to heed our shared call to raise wages.
I've spent my life fighting for good pay for workers, and spent years working as an electrician installing and restoring power for New Jersey homes, businesses and industrial sites. Raising wages for hardworking families is the first issue I talked to the governor and the new team in Trenton about. In fact, we brought together Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, for their first joint public appearance after last year's election to call for a $15 minimum wage.
Today, the wage floor is $7.25 an hour nationally and $8.60 in New Jersey, leaving Americans who work full time living in poverty. Families are coming up thousands of dollars short each month just trying to meet basic living standards – asking if they should pay for heat or for medicine. Food or rent. Those types of choices shouldn't have to be made – not by an American with a full-time job. That doesn't reflect our country's values. But until wages rise, economic anxiety will continue to be the norm.
It's illogical that our nation's workers are more productive than ever, but profits are all going to CEO bonuses and offshore accounts instead of actual paychecks. And while everyone deserves a fair day's pay for a hard day's work, our policies are not addressing the needs of everyday Americans – the many of us without trust funds, yachts and private jets. Trumpism favors the wealthiest among us – it doesn't match American ingenuity or productivity.
To make matters worse, President Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices passed a heinous tax scam that gives 83 percent of the tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent. They rewarded billionaires, prioritized corporate profits and hurt working families – particularly in New Jersey – by gutting critical state and local tax deductions that Americans depend on.
The author of the tax bill – U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas – attended a closed-door meeting with me and other members of Congress last week. I brought up the importance of raising the federal minimum wage. He dismissed my comments with excuses and ignorance, saying that raising the wage is a "matter for the states" and "too hot of a political issue."
On the latter point, every time Congress raised the minimum wage, it passed with strong bipartisan support. History shows that if we can just put the issue to a vote, it will pass by a wide margin, so it's by no means a "hot" political issue -- or even a "political" issue at all. It is, however, a national issue, as wages have been stagnant for decades in our country, making economic security a thing of the past for far too many Americans. We need a national living wage, and then states with regional needs can choose to go higher than that.
Exactly a year ago, I wrote here in The Star Ledger that "first and foremost for me is raising your wages," and that remains the same today.It's been 11 years since Congress last voted to increase the minimum wage, and millions of Americans are suffering because of this neglect. Let's follow our governor's call and bring the "Fight for $15" here to New Jersey, and let's do what Americans need and deserve by mirroring that action in Congress.
We need to come together and take real action for America's workers. Join me. Demand the raise you have earned, that your daughter or son has earned, that your hardworking neighbor has earned. Demand lawmakers do the right thing and raise the wage.