On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. University students and the larger Princeton town community will not immediately feel the effects of the law.
New Jersey is the fourth state to enact the $15 minimum wage target, following California, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.
The minimum wage will rise gradually over the next five years with the first increase from $8.85 to $10 taking effect on July 1, 2019. According to Governor Murphy’s speech, the initial wage hike will impact hundreds of thousands of people working in New Jersey.
“Over the last six months of this year alone, these families will see $1,200 more right in their pockets,” said Governor Murphy.
The legislation is the result of years of negotiations. In 2016, Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill. Governor Murphy, a Democrat, promised to achieve this wage increase by the end of his first year in office. He missed that goal by a month.
“We have talked long enough about putting New Jersey on a responsible path to $15 an hour minimum wage,” said Governor Murphy in his speech. “Today we make our economy both fairer and stronger.”
According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the minimum wage were set at $15 across the country, pay would increase for nearly 40 million workers, or 26.6 percent of the national workforce.
Although some expected that the legislation would exclude teens under 18 from the minimum wage increase, they are on the same path towards $15, according to NJ.com.
The new legislation is not without complications. NJ.com also reported that seasonal workers and businesses of five or fewer employees are on a slower timeline to raise the minimum wage, and farm worker wages will increase to only $12.50.
Business owners have raised complaints that this bill may force them to raise prices, fire workers, or shut down. Farm workers have called the bill “discriminatory.”
Currently at the University, the lowest wage for a student employee in a non-sitting position is $10.90 an hour.
“The hourly rates for employees at Princeton are aligned with the pending July 1, 2019, minimum wage increase, so there will be no immediate impact,” said University spokesperson Ben Chang. “That said, we are evaluating the impact of the planned incremental increases in subsequent years.”
For people working in the town of Princeton, the effect of the legislation will also be delayed.
“A lot of off-campus restaurants and retail shops match Princeton’s on-campus wage so as to remain a competitive option for students,” said Hannah Pouler ’21, who works at Jules Thin Crust, a local pizzeria. “In a few years, though, future employees at Jules will definitely benefit from the minimum wage increase.”
After Governor Murphy, surrounded by families and politicians, signed the new minimum wage bill, he lifted it in the air and smiled.
“This is the law of the land,” he said.