In June, the New Jersey state legislature passed a bill that would have raised the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. As expected, Governor Christie vetoed the bill. Democratic leaders, including State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Speaker Vincent Prieto, had stated that, in the event of a veto, they would put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide in 2017. However, these same leaders have yet to pass a resolution to let New Jersey residents vote on the bill.
The Democrats have not acted as promised to put the decision of whether to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage in the hands of voters in 2017. Instead, some legislators have discussed weakening the bill by extending the time it will take to get to $15 an hour for all workers. Additionally, some representatives are considering exceptions for youth and agricultural workers
This delay in action has led activists around the state to question the commitment of these leaders to workers. “For the past 4 years we have seen Democrats across the country take credit for raising wages, but it is that same party that stands in the way of passing effective legislation,” says Brian Powers, an organizer with 15 Now New Jersey, a coalition with over 40 sponsoring organizations. “In Seattle the Democrats forced an 8-year phase in. The Minneapolis Democrats on the City Council went to court to stop a $15 an hour bill from going on the ballot after activists petitioned to get it there. Our activists have good reason to suspect the Democratic Party in New Jersey is not taking this issue seriously.”
This issue is another example of why the Democratic Party loses votes from working class people. They say one thing and do another. One cannot simply claim to care about raising wages, then not do it. All the energy put into passing the first bill seems intended only to embarrass political rivals like Chris Christie, not to create the real changes working families need. Now that it is time to take real action, the Democrats we hired to represent us are doing nothing.
In response to these delays, the 15 Now coalition will hold protests outside the Walmarts in Kearny and Mays Landing on “Black Friday,” November 25th, the day after Thanksgiving. Protests will begin at 1:00pm outside on the street near parking lot entrances. Walmart has become the target of such protests in years past, and the event will be joined by Organization United for Respect at Walmart, who have effectively gained concessions from the country’s largest employer.
"Making $15 an hour would change my life. I am working as hard as I can to provide for myself, but I'm still unable to afford my own housing and food without relying on family,” said George Luis Diaz, who works at Walmart. “Some of my coworkers don't have family like me, so they have to rely on food stamps. Nobody working for the world's richest corporation should have to live in poverty."