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Minimum Wage Hike In New Jersey May Be Up To Voters

By Robin Rieger

CINNAMINSON, N.J. (CBS) - At the original Mart Pretzel Bakery in Cinnaminson, five employees who make pretzels in several sizes and flavors make more than New Jersey’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Most start around $8 an hour says Shaughnessy Fraser, whose family owns the business.

“If you want more than the minimum from somebody, you want the maximum effort, you can’t pay them minimum wage,” said Fraser.

He and others we spoke to support a dollar an hour increase in the minimum wage, and think putting it to the voters next fall as proposed by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney at a hearing Monday in Trenton is a good idea.

“At least this way we get everybody’s input and that’s fair,” he said.

“I think minimum wage should be on the agenda, it should be on the ballot and it should have been on the ballot years ago,” said Harold Molina who works for a Palmyra company.

Sweeney says he proposed the state constitutional amendment because Governor Chris Christie told him he would veto any legislation that ties annual raises to the consumer price index as his proposal does.

“I’m not saying this is a Republican or Democratic issue; this is a worker’s issue. One thing is certain, the people of this state need a raise,” Sweeney said.

Todd Perkins whose family owns Haines Farm and Garden Center says he’d like to see different minimum wage guidelines for different workers.

“A high school kid, 14 years old with working papers doesn’t deserve it
as much as a 25 year old walking in the door that can do more, that can offer more,” said Perkins.

He thinks an across the board increase could hurt businesses already dealing with a slow economy, instead of laying off workers Perkins said he might have to reduce some hours.

The president of the state AFL-CIO also testified in Trenton Monday in favor of putting the proposal on the ballot.

Sweeney’s resolution cleared the senate budget and appropriations committee.

“For years, New Jersey has assigned a dollar amount to the minimum wage that is woefully inadequate,” said Sweeney. “In fact, it is a complete failure. According to a 2011 analysis by the Office of Legislative Services, among the 307,000 workers in New Jersey who earned among the lowest hourly wages, nearly half worked full-time and one-quarter were parents. Imagine trying to feed a family, pay the rent and keep gas in the car on less than $16,000 a year.”

According to Sweeney, as of January 1, 2012, 18 states, representing 43 percent of the nation’s workforce, have set minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25. These 18 states are listed here with the nine states among them which have indexed minimum wages bolded and italicized: Washington, $9.04; Oregon, $8.80; Vermont, $8.46; Nevada, Illinois and Connecticut, $8.25; California and Massachusetts, $8.00; Alaska, $7.75; Ohio, $7.70; Florida, $7.67; Arizona and Montana, $7.65; Colorado, $7.64; Maine and New Mexico, $7.50; and Rhode Island and Michigan, $7.40.

The resolution now heads to the full Senate.

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