New Jersey's minimum wage rising, some say not enough

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:57

    TRENTON—While state officials touted an impending increase in New Jersey’s minimum hourly wage, residents and advocates for the poor said the extra dollars will not do much for impoverished people. ``It’s not good enough.” “People work very hard jobs like dish washers, you know? It’s very sad,’’ said Mayra Lanza, 22, a photo store clerk who said her friends use their minimum wage pay to support families here and abroad in countries such as Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala. On Saturday, New Jersey’s minimum hourly wage increased $1 to $6.15. On Oct. 1 of the following year, it will see another $1 raise, reaching $7.15 per hour. The changes will put the state on par with Alaska, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon. Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey hailed the increases on Thursday, saying 200,000 workers will directly benefit. ``From now on, an honest day’s work will be rewarded with an honest day’s pay,’’ he said. ``It is the right thing for our hard working families, our state and our economy.’’ Business advocates on Thursday reiterated their opposition to the increase. John Rogers, vice president of human resources for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said his group is opposed to the hourly wage raise because it could result in a 40 percent hit to small businesses over the next two years. ``Such an aggressive increase in the wage may actually put some employers out of business,’’ he said, forecasting that employers will compensate for the wage raise by cutting workers’ hours and benefits. While the increase is a good step, Roberto Hernandez, program director for a family resource center, said it still doesn’t go far enough. ``The families that come here, sometimes they go one month without paying rent so that they could buy food.” “The next month they’ll have to pay the rent and have to stretch their food. So, it’s a juggling act for many of them to try to survive,’’ Hernandez said. ``We have many working poor here who are just making it, and many who are not making it,’’ he said.