With its governor’s signature yesterday, New Jersey became the latest – and the third largest – state to pass a $15.00 per hour minimum wage bill. The only states with larger populations than New Jersey passing such $15 minimum wage bills are California and New York, which enacted similar laws in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Under the New Jersey law, the state’s current minimum wage of $8.85 per hour will rise to $10.00 per hour on July 1, 2019; to $11.00 per hour on January 1, 2020; and an additional $1.00 per hour on January 1st of each successive year until reaching $15.00 per hour in 2024. Each year thereafter, based on state constitutional provisions, the minimum wage may increase further depending on the national Consumer Price Index. The New Jersey law does carve out a handful of exceptions, such as for seasonal employers and small employers (those with 5 or fewer employees), but most of those exceptions merely extend by a few years the schedule for implementing the $15 per hour minimum.
At the federal level, meanwhile, a bill to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15.00 per hour was introduced by Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives in early January. The current federal minimum wage has been $7.25 for nearly a decade. Backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, and Senator Bernie Sanders, among others, the bill has 181 co-sponsors in the House and 31 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Contrary to the minimum wage stagnancy at the federal level, the arrival of 2019 saw even more states and municipalities implementing higher minimum wage rates, including increases in Arkansas, Massachusetts and Missouri, and an upcoming increase in Michigan. In addition, through the first month of 2019, bills to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour have been introduced in Virginia, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Maryland. The Virginia bill subsequently was defeated by a narrow, two-vote margin in the state senate.