The $15 minimum wage issue will get its first hearing on Dec. 10.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin today introduced legislation to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.  The Assembly Labor Committee has already scheduled it for consideration on Dec. 10.

Under the bill, the minimum wage will rise from $8.85 on Jan. 1 to $9.50 for most workers on July 1, 2019, and then to $11 on Jan. 1, 2020. It would then increase each year until reaching $15 in 2024. The bill would increase the minimum wage rate more slowly for seasonal workers, farm workers and others.

“This bill addresses the issue of helping New Jersey’s working poor be better able to afford living in the State while taking into consideration the concerns of the State’s valued small business community,” Coughlin said. “Raising the minimum wage will not only lift up the current generation of low-wage workers but ensure fairness for future generations and tackle issues of hunger and inequality.”

NJBIA has been leading the fight against a $15-an-hour minimum wage because it will hurt New Jersey’s competitiveness and have a negative impact on small businesses.

“We still have many concerns about the impacts of this bill and will continue to work with the Legislature on exceptions for certain workers and industries,” said NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka. “We do not feel that the proposed exceptions go far enough.”

“In NJBIA’s 2018 Health Benefits Survey, we saw a 7-percent decline in employers that offered health coverage plans for their employees from the previous two years. We are concerned that unless there is a consideration of overall compensation in this legislation, more employers will choose to drop employee health benefits plans to adjust for the increase in wages,” she said.

“We are also asking the Legislature to include a provision in the bill requiring an economic analysis of scheduled increases to provide the state the option of freezing an annual increase during a major economic downturn or in the wake of a natural disaster.”