NJBIA's Public Policy Forum: The Road to Recovery REGISTER
By KATHERINE LANDERGAN
Politico

Labor activists and business groups offered different views on the results of a new poll that found New Jersey residents want to see a significant increase in the statewide minimum wage, but not as high as $15 an hour.

The New Jersey Working Families Alliance said the results were flawed, while the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said the findings show that better job training and career development are needed if the Legislature gradually raises the minimum wage to $15.

The poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 74 percent of those questioned support an increase in the minimum wage. But those who favor the bump said that, on average, the hourly figure should be $12.47. The current minimum wage is $8.60, but will increase to $8.85 in January.

Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin all agree the minimum wage should be gradually increased to $15. However, disagreement remains over how long it should take to reach that figure — poll respondents were not asked about this — and whether certain groups, such as teenagers and seasonal workers, should be excluded.

The New Jersey Working Families Alliance criticized the poll for failing to accurately describe the proposals lawmakers are considering.

Analilia Mejia, the alliance’s executive director, said the poll questions did not indicate that an increase in the minimum wage $15 would be phased in over a number of years, context she said might have changed the results.

Pollsters also failed to track respondents’ income, Mejia said, meaning they had no way of knowing which respondents, if any, would be impacted by an increase in the minimum wage. It’s estimated that about one in four New Jersey workers would see their salaries increase under a $15 minimum wage.

“We applaud the FDU PublicMind poll findings that New Jersey residents favor an increase in the state’s current minimum wage. However, we urge them to highlight the important nuances in this matter as well,” Mejia said in the statement. “If you are going to ask voters about their preference for different wage floors, you also need to talk about how New Jersey will get there.”

Mike Wallace, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the poll shows the public has serious concerns about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This means lawmakers should be considering things like job training, apprenticeships and career development that will allow workers to get better paying jobs.

“As the discussion about raising the minimum wage continues, NJBIA will continue to emphasize skill building and career development to improve the financial opportunities for low-wage workers,” Wallace said in a statement. “New Jersey, like the rest of the nation, has a severe shortage of skilled labor, to the point where thousands of job openings are going unfilled because employers cannot find the workforce with the necessary skills needed to fill open positions.”