On November 5, 2013, New Jersey voters will be asked to vote on Ballot Question 2, which proposes to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 per hour to $8.25 per hour. Ballot Question 2 would also allow for adjustments if there are annual increases in the cost of living.
The ACLU of New Jersey endorses a ‘Yes’ vote on Question 2.
Why Vote ‘Yes’ on Question 2?
The ACLU of New Jersey believes that access to the basic necessities of life is essential in order to enjoy the other rights and freedoms of the New Jersey and federal constitutions.
Without a fair wage, the basic necessities are simply out of reach for many New Jerseyans. Passage of Question 2 is an important step towards bringing many New Jerseyans closer to accessing the promises of our Constitution.
The ACLU-NJ believes that amending the constitution should not be treated as a routine matter. We do not believe that amending the constitution is the right course of action for all issues, but we do believe that the issue before us – raising the minimum wage to allow New Jerseyans access to the basic necessities of life – justifies a vote of support.
New Jersey’s minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 per hour. While New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in, it also has the lowest possible minimum wage allowed by federal law. This wage is significantly below what is required to afford the cost of living in New Jersey. In fact, millions of New Jerseyans simply cannot meet the costs of their basic needs.
According to a 2013 report by Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ), meeting the real cost of living for a single New Jersey adult would require an hourly wage of $13.75. Further, a single adult with two school-age children would require an hourly wage of $27.34, while two adults with two school-age children would each need an hourly wage of $15.44. Generally speaking, many working adults in New Jersey earn wages significantly below what is necessary to possess the basic necessities of life.
If Question 2 passes, the change would benefit an estimated 429,000 working New Jerseyans, primarily women and people of color. While the wage increase will not eliminate the poverty conditions faced by so many New Jerseyans today, it is an important step forward for economic justice in our state.