Chamber Op-Ed Misleads on Minimum Wage Impact

An edited version of this letter appeared in the Star-Ledger.

The latest entry in the business lobby’s “lies, damn lies and statistics” campaign against a modest wage increase for New Jersey’s low-wage workers came courtesy of Thomas Bracken in Wednesday’s Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press and Bergen Record.

In falling back on the unproven myth that the wage increase would harm New Jersey’s economy, Bracken suggests that the pay raise wouldn’t help many people (40,000) – and, hey, they’re mostly teenagers anyway. That begs the question: In a state with 4.2 million jobs, why would the state Chamber make a fuss over not even one-tenth of one percent of the labor force?

The answer lies in the reality of how many New Jerseyans would be affected by the wage increase – a number far greater than the one Bracken cites.

By using only the number of New Jerseyans currently making the minimum wage, Bracken understates the wage increase’s real impact on the economic security of New Jersey’s low-wage workers. The fact: raising the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour directly helps not only those making $7.25, but all of those who make between $7.25 and $8.25 – that means 241,000 workers will see a direct wage increase, not the 40,000 Bracken suggests. In addition, another 188,000 workers who make between $8.25 and $9.25 per hour would likely see wage boosts as pay scales are adjusted upwards.

By undercounting how many workers would benefit, Bracken also underestimates the economic impact of the wage increase, suggesting an annual bump in salary of $80 million. In reality, the annual wage increase would increase salaries by $276 million.

Apparently the Chamber is anxious to attract still more low-wage jobs by asserting that potential job creators won’t bring their jobs to New Jersey. Mr. Bracken, we have plenty of low-wage jobs, it’s the good jobs we want to see grow in New Jersey. The Chamber could help by providing accurate information on the real impact of a minimum wage increase.

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