By Brenda Flanagan
Call it a clash of opinions. While protesters demanding a $15 per hour New Jersey minimum wage whaled away at a Gov. Chris Christie piñata outside the State House, a friendlier welcome awaited the real governor in Cranford.
Christie took the podium at Union County College to tout a new job creation program and New Jersey’s recovering economy. Almost 4.4 million people are employed in New Jersey.
“It’s going to be — I hope — a continuing kind of broken record for us because last month we had more people employed in the state of New Jersey than at any other time in our history. We just added over 17,000 people to that number, so we set a new record again here in March. And it’s really due in large measure to the policies that we’re implementing because we’re doing it in conjunction with the employers who sign the paychecks,” Christie said.
Particularly, employers who need workers for transportation logistics, health care and advanced manufacturing companies. They’re the focus of a new, $2.7 million program that’ll train up to 2,700 people at three Talent Development Centers — pipelines to new or better jobs.
“These Talent Development Centers are connected to strong employer partnerships. So they will be able to not just get them the skills, but connect them to employers that will help them get those jobs,” said Patricia Moran. So there’s a job waiting for someone who graduates from this? “Correct,” Moran said.
These new jobs could pay anywhere from $13 to $32 per hour. Ironically, at the Fight for $15 rally protesters complained New Jersey’s current minimum $8.38 per hour isn’t a living wage. Shane Charles can’t even make it on $10 per hour.
“And even some days being hungry from this amount of money. It’s not enough to survive in this world today,” he said.
“When you poll New Jersey voters they overwhelmingly recognize that workers deserve a raise, that $8.38 isn’t enough and are in support of measures such as a $15 minimum wage,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of NJ Working Families.
Democratic lawmakers want to boost New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 per hour — like New York and California recently did. It could impact one in three workers here. But Gov. Christie had promised a veto, concerned a higher minimum wage could kill the economic recovery. We asked if he’d changed his mind.
“No. I have not. I oppose it,” he said.
So while the governor says job creation and employment’s on the upswing in New Jersey, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a bar he’s still not willing to hurdle.