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The New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) on Thursday urged legislators to vote against increasing the minimum wage to $17.98 per hour for subcontracted workers at Newark Airport, Hoboken Terminal and Newark Penn Station.

In addition to setting the $17.98 minimum wage, the bills also mandate paid sick leave, paid vacation, and $4.27 an hour worth of supplemental wages, effectively bringing hourly wages to $22.25.

“Businesses, no matter how large, cannot withstand a more than 100 percent increase in the minimum wage,” said NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka. “This bill would force businesses to increase their prices or lay off workers to pay for it, which in turn, will make it harder for them to compete, even against businesses in the same city.”

The Assembly voted 51-23 with one abstention to approve the legislation, A-4870. The Senate is scheduled to act on an identical bill, S. 3226, later on Thursday.

The bill applies to subcontracted transportation center service workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station and the Hoboken Terminal that perform certain transportation center services, including cargo related and ramp services, passenger handling services, cleaning services, and concessions.

Siekerka noted the legislation circumvents the collective bargaining process by imposing wage and benefit increases for workers by statute, instead of through contract negotiations. The $17.98 minimum wage represents a 110% increase over the current minimum wage in New Jersey.

The legislation would create a two-tiered wage system: one for workers within the three transit hubs and one for nearby businesses outside those hubs.

“Businesses cannot stay competitive when the law forces them to pay wages that are twice as high as their competitors,” Siekerka said. “This is another example of legislation that, if enacted, would make New Jersey a less attractive place to do business.”