New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen is well-known for giving voice to the challenges facing working families as they struggle to for basic economic security in the Garden State. Many are quite inspired by his stories of hardship, struggle and overcoming continue the fight for jobs and decent wages. This Friday night, the Raise the Wage Campaign will bring together advocates, researchers, community members, union members, elected leaders, minimum wage workers, and others in Asbury Park—the Jersey Shore town that helped propel Springsteen to international stardom—to amplify these issues and highlight the need for a raise in the state’s minimum wage.
Why does raising the minimum wage matter in Jersey? Fans may remember hearing Springsteen sing that “down the shore, everything’s alright.” Well sadly, the reality is that when we look at the economic security of working families everything is not alright, at the shore or anywhere in Jersey. Many of New Jersey’s workers are struggling to get by on a minimum wage that is $7.25 an hour. Working full time at the minimum wage, Jerseyans earn only $14,500 annually – about $3,600 below the poverty line for a family of three—and nowhere near what the family needs to be economically secure.
However in a few weeks, New Jersey’s citizens have the opportunity to improve the lives of their neighbors and strengthen the state’s economy. A $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage is a ballot question on this November’s election.
Close to half a million New Jersey workers and over 230,000 children would benefit if the minimum wage rose to $8.25 per hour. Indexing the wage to inflation would maintain these benefits over time. And as for Springsteen’s “Jersey Girls”: women disproportionately comprise the workers who earn minimum wage. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that more than half of the workers who would get a raise are women (55 percent) and more than half are people of color (55 percent). As women increasingly become their families’ breadwinners, our economy’s success is dependent on women’s economic security and access to decent wages. An increase in the minimum wage will support not only these workers, but their children and families.
So what exactly does the increase in the minimum wage mean for workers in New Jersey? It means an extra $173 in gross income each month. This is a significant raise for workers struggling to just get by. In concrete terms this will allow a single worker in Asbury Park to cover over 90% of her utilities or cover over 60% of food costs each month. Or she may decide to use that money to better cover her health care costs each month or save $81 a month toward emergency savings, and have another $92 dollars to put toward food. (See Figure 1).
And for the Jersey girl who is a single mother, raising the minimum wage would help her and her family cover almost 75% of their utilities or cover 63% of their health care expenses each month. Or that extra income can help her save $138 a month toward emergency savings and still have an additional $35 to put toward her basic household expenses such as clothing and telephone bills.(See Figure 2).
A raise in the minimum wage will also benefit Jersey’s businesses and overall economy. As the above figures suggest, workers will likely spend much of any raise in local businesses on immediate and pressing needs like food, rent, gas, and other basics. According to New Jersey Policy Perspective this increased consumer spending would add $174.8 million to the state’s economy in 2014. This increased economic activity would result in the creation of the equivalent of 1,520 full-time jobs.
Raising the minimum wage in New Jersey is a critical step for Jersey girls and Jersey guys to move toward economic security. WOW is happy to be participating in the Raise the Wage Campaign event in Asbury Park on Friday, and do our part to ensure all New Jerseyans are aware of the ballot initiative to increase the state minimum wage and improve the lives of working families down the shore and throughout the state.
And if you are in the Asbury Park area on Friday October 25th at 5pm come out to support the event! To find out more about the Asbury Park event visit the Raise the Wage event page