On the eve of the national day of action for the “Fight for Fifteen” movement aimed at increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) and the healthcare-focused SEIU union held a phone in tele-townhall to discuss why they believe the proposed hike is a critical one. Currently the minimum wage in New Jersey sits at $8.38 per hour.
“I think it is so important, the fight for 15,” Pallone said. ”We know that New Jersey is a high cost of living state but the wages have stayed the same. New Jersey has a minimum wage of $8.38, which is the 12th in the nation. But, if you adjust it for cost of living it is almost at the bottom. It is just an impossible situation. If we raise wages for $15 per hour workers have a better chance of making a living wage and pay for things like housing and food that are basic necessities.”
According to Pallone a boost from the current minimum could “really improve the economy.” He thinks that, if wages were bumped, more money could be spent on recreation and entertainment and less government aid would be needed due to workers having enough funds to cover basic necessities like food, shelter and healthcare.
Pallone was also joined by 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President Milly Silva and healthcare workers from facilities throughout the state.
“It is not only possible, it is achievable,” Silva said. “Tomorrow thousands of workers are going to take to the streets. In a lot of ways this is about people wanting to achieve the American Dream. This is what this movement is about. We are encouraging people to stand up for $15 per hour.”
On Tuesday at 3 p.m., healthcare workers will picket at three locations in New Jersey as part of the day of action. In Jersey City they will gather at Majestic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, in Perth Amboy they will amass at AristaCare at Alameda and in Neptune City the picketers will be at Medicenter Rehabilitation and Nursing. Fast food workers are also planning a nationwide strike on Tuesday.
The Fight for Fifteen started three years ago when fast food workers started the call for a $15 minimum wage. In the time since, it has spread to a number of professions nationwide including retail and nursing home workers.
“In order to make ends meet on New Jersey’s minimum wage, you would have to work 94 hours per week,” Pallone said. “I think if people understand that they will be more sympathetic. The only way this is going to happen is if people mobilize.”