Beware the Minimum Wage Masquerade

Imagine a policy that would destroy thousands of jobs dressed up for Halloween as way to help workers.  Something really scary masquerading as something innocent.   That’s Ballot Question #2, a constitutional question seeking to mandate an increase in the minimum wage every year, automatically, forever.

The campaign to raise the minimum wage has very cleverly disguised it as a way to help poor workers make ends meet in a very expensive state.  They claim that it will benefit hundreds of thousands of “working poor” New Jerseyans who are trying to raise their families on $7.25 per hour.  They also claim that it will help small businesses by putting more money in the pockets of consumers.

Don’t be fooled.  Most of the research on the minimum wage shows job losses for people on the bottom rungs of the ladder.  That’s because entry-level workers generally have the lowest skills and the least experience.  Raising the cost of entry-level labor discourages employers from hiring new workers and forces them to cut payroll.  The youngest and least experienced job seekers are usually hit hardest.

The data also show that very few adults even in the lowest jobs are earning minimum wage.  According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 3 percent of all hourly workers in New Jersey earn the minimum wage and they are typically teenagers.  The bottom line is that a higher minimum wage – especially a minimum wage on automatic pilot – won’t really help poor families but it will really hurt kids who need jobs.

So, who’s behind the mask?  Big Labor.  The Raise the Wage campaign is being financed almost entirely by New Jersey’s biggest labor unions.  But why?  According to the state Department of Labor, there’s not a single occupation in New Jersey among the 700 that it surveys that pays minimum wage.  Every occupation, including dishwasher, movie theater usher and fast food worker, pays on average significantly more than the minimum wage.  Union jobs generally pay even higher wages.

The answer is that union contracts are often tied to the minimum wage.  The unions know that most of their members already make more than minimum wage.  But they also know that it Ballot Question #2 passes, their members will get automatic pay raises every year, automatically, forever, and they won’t even have to bargain for them.  Now that’s scary.

Raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.  Writing an automatic increase into the state Constitution is absolutely terrifying.  It will escalate the cost of doing business in New Jersey every year even when the economy is slow and even when businesses are struggling.  It will send up a bright red flag to business investors that New Jersey is a place to avoid.  And it will destroy thousands of jobs for teenagers and young adults who need the money and the experience.

Learn more about Ballot Question #2 at

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About Laurie Ehlbeck

Laurie Ehlbeck, an experienced government relations representative and former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General, was named the New Jersey state director for the National Federation of Independent Business in April 2006. As director of NFIB, the state's largest small-business advocacy organization, Ehlbeck will represent the interests of NFIB's 9,300 members in the Legislature as well as before state regulatory agencies. "Laurie brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this position that will be a great benefit to NFIB's small-business members in New Jersey," said Tim Goodrich, regional public policy director for NFIB. Ehlbeck most recently was the director of government affairs for the New Jersey Food Council where she represented food chains, convenience stores, independent grocers and others in the food industry before the Legislature. Prior to the Food Council, Ehlbeck was a Deputy Attorney General where she served as Legislative Counsel identifying legal and constitutional issues, and was instrumental in drafting New Jersey Cultural Trust Fund legislation. A graduate of Rutgers University and Widener University School of Law, Ehlbeck has also served with the New Jersey State Senate Majority as a Judiciary Committee Aide, and has worked at Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Kauffman. She also has served as a member of the Township of Franklin Ordinance Review Committee. Heavily involved in the community, Ehlbeck is president of the Board of Directors of Quixote Quest, a teen volunteer club, the Washington Township Citizen's Advisory Committee, and is an assistant spokesperson of Washington Township Parents of Special Needs Children. @njmompop
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