Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, released the following the statement regarding today’s call for a $15 minimum wage by Governor-elect Phil Murphy and legislative leaders.
“New Jersey businesses want to pay competitive wages to attract and keep good employees, but can only do so when it makes economic sense. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, without addressing any comprehensive reform that will make New Jersey more affordable, will ultimately result in a heavy economic burden on small businesses that will have a ripple effect throughout the state.
“Most of our member companies tell us they will raise prices, reduce employee hours and increase automation to counter the impact of such a dramatic wage increase.
“We have heard members from the home healthcare industry question their survival if mandated to pay such a rate at the same time Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates are set at the same $15 rate. Fast-food franchisees have explained they’ll automate rather pay someone to take orders. Gas station retailers, who are not legally allowed to automate the pump, will have no choice but to raise their prices. Nonprofits that already struggle to deliver community services will be hard pressed to keep pace at the increased hourly wage.
“We would anticipate the 16-year-old looking to land his or her first job having much more difficulty getting hired at a $15 minimum wage. We also expect workers who are already making $15 an hour to seek wage increases. With all of this impact, a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour would result in unprecedented increases in the cost of doing business in the state.
“Any discussion about increasing New Jersey’s minimum wage should be done in a comprehensive manner, rather than artificially assigning a value to jobs. It should take into consideration workforce development and job training initiatives to raise the skills of low-wage earners and exceptions for certain industries for appropriate economic purposes.
“We look forward to having a seat at the table to work with Governor-elect Murphy and the Legislature on a comprehensive policy proposal to address affordability and job opportunity in New Jersey.”