Chris Christie Pushes Myths to Justify Veto of Measure Raising One Million Workers’ Wages

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Analysis Politics

Chris Christie Pushes Myths to Justify Veto of Measure Raising One Million Workers’ Wages

Ally Boguhn

Assembly Bill 15 would have raised New Jersey’s minimum wage to $10.10 in the next year, and to at least $15 over the next five years depending on the consumer price index.

Minimum wage is “the siren song of, you know, ‘I’ll give you something now for nothing,'” claimed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) Tuesday as he announced his veto of a measure to raise the minimum wage in the state. During an event in Pennington, New Jersey, the governor trotted out a laundry list of common conservative myths about raising the minimum wage to defend his decision.

Assembly Bill 15 would have raised New Jersey’s minimum wage to $10.10 in the next year, and to at least $15 over the next five years depending on the consumer price index.

As an example of what the future might hold should the minimum wage be raised in the state, the governor mentioned Panera Bread, which, according to him, now has “the minimum number of people … employed there” because the company utilizes some self-serve kiosks. 

“That’s the wave of the future, if we continue to do this type of really radical increase in the minimum wage,” said Christie, implying that jobs would be eliminated due to such changes.

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Panera Bread noted in 2014, however, that it would not be cutting jobs in relation to the move away from cashiers. Instead, the company “reassigned workers to monitor order accuracy,according to BuzzFeed News.

Ron Shaich, the founder and chairman of Panera, has also been a proponent of raising the minimum wage.

And as Ethan Chiel explained in an article for Fusion, arguing that wages shouldn’t be raised because automation may eliminate some jobs puts low-wage workers in an impossible position:

The argument here is, effectively, robots will come eventually, and in the meantime low-wage workers should take an unlivable wage while knowing that your boss may fire you to install a robotic arm anyway. That argument is that some of America’s poorest workers should trade a living wage for job stability that isn’t even stable. It’s an argument that’s been made for far too long, even without the help of looming robotic arms.

Christie went on to claim that raising the minimum wage through the measure would have made “businesses noncompetitive” and would reduce “opportunities for the people of New Jersey to get good-paying jobs … with good benefits and a bright future for their families.”

However, a study released in May of this year by the National Employment Law Project examining seven decades of data found no correlation between raising the federal minimum wage and employment levels, a conclusion that, it explains, is “in line with the findings of the substantial majority of modern minimum-wage research.”

Furthermore, when New York was considering raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour—legislation that was eventually signed into law in April—a group of 75 economists in the state published a statement calling the move a “much needed policy that would raise the incomes of struggling low-wage workers and boost their spending power without hurting the state’s economy.” The economists went on to directly rebut opponents who claim that raising the minimum wage would hurt jobs:

These assertions are based on outdated and flawed research that overstate job impacts of minimum wage policies. Instead, “metastudies” (analyses that survey the minimum wage research field and aggregate findings from many studies) show that the majority of newer, credible studies come to the opposite conclusion: Policies raising the wage floor increase the take-home pay of affected workers without hurting employment levels overall. This is in part explained by the positive effects of higher wages for businesses, which benefit from reduced levels of turnover, savings from reduced spending in recruiting and training new workers as a result of the lower turnover, higher morale and productivity, and improved customer service. Additionally, higher wages can result in increased consumer spending and increased sales for local businesses.

And although Christie claimed that efforts to raise the minimum wage in the state were “responsive to the demands of Democratic legislators’ political patrons,” the bill actually addressed the needs of low-wage workers in the state whose incomes don’t go far enough to make ends meet.

A 2015 report released by the United Way of Northern New Jersey found that a single person would need to make at least $13.78 per hour to meet their basic needs, and a family would need both working parents to make at least $15.30 per hour. Yet minimum wage workers in the state currently only make $8.25 per hour.

The state’s minimum wage measure would have helped almost one million residents, according to the New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonpartisan economic-focused research organization.

“The governor has failed to take advantage of a great opportunity to give nearly 1 million New Jersey workers a raise, reduce inequality and help the state’s economy,” said the organization’s vice president, Jon Whiten, in a post to the organization’s website Tuesday. “Instead, he has decided to allow employers to continue paying 975,000 New Jerseyans so little that they can’t survive on their wages alone in this high-cost state.”

“The phased-in minimum wage hike, to $15 over 5 years, was a sensible, steady way to give working families across the state a better shot at success, and would have mostly helped adults working full-time despite the myths perpetuated by opponents of raising New Jersey’s pay,” continued Whiten.

Some Democratic lawmakers in the state hope to place the minimum wage raise on a ballot measure for 2017, to allow voters to weigh in on the change for themselves.