Essex County Freeholders urge approval of minimum wage question in November election

During last night’s meeting held at West Orange Town Hall, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously approved a resolution urging Essex County residents to vote “yes” on Tuesday, Nov. 5, on Ballot Question #2 to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage and allow for an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Specifically, a “yes” vote would support the raising of the minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $8.25 an hour and to have it adjust annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to reflect the economic conditions facing New Jersey workers, and to ensure that New Jersey’s minimum wage is not a poverty wage, but rather a fair wage for workers.

“The cost of living in New Jersey continues to rise”, said Freeholder Brendan Gill of Montclair, speaking in favor of the resolution, “yet there has been no state legislative action approved to increase the minimum wage since 2005, and the most recent attempt was vetoed by Governor Christie.”  He added, “This increase, as well as the annual adjustments tied to the CPI, is critical for our neighbors to escape poverty and increase their standards of living while also stimulating the economy through their increased purchasing power.”

Freeholder President Blonnie Watson and Freeholders Rufus Johnson and Rolando Bobadilla of Newark expressed their strong support for the resolution, especially since so many of the residents in their communities have been hit so hard by the economic downturn, and have only been able to find low-paying employment.  “This increase in the minimum wage, even as small as it is, will help”, said Freeholder Johnson.

Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold of Livingston, Freeholder Leonard Luciano of West Caldwell, who serves on the Executive Board of Local 481 of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, and Freeholder Gerald Owens of South Orange, who serves as General Organizer for the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO (ILA), also spoke about the importance of taking this step to assist the working families of Essex County.

According to a Freeholders press release, there are 429,000 workers in New Jersey who earn at or near the minimum wage; more than 350,000 are over the age of 20, 250,000 are women, 79,000 are men, 154,000 are Hispanic, 69,000 are Black and 31,000 are Asian.

The Chicago Federal Reserve Bank conducted a study in 2011 that estimates that for every dollar increase in the minimum wage, there is $2,800 in new consumer spending by that household the following year.  This revenue is injected into the local economy which translates into greater consumer demand for local goods and services, thereby requiring employers to hire additional workers to meet this demand which, in turn, translates into job creation.  “This means job creation for Essex County”, said Freeholder President Watson.

Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc.’s, “Raise the Wage” campaign has more than 250 member organizations comprised of labor, religious, community, civil rights, student, women and retirees groups dedicated to ensuring that New Jersey’s minimum wage ballot initiative passes on November 5th.  To view a list of the participating organizations, or to get more information on how increasing the minimum wage is good for the residents of Essex County, please visit

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