On November 5, 2013, New Jersey residents voted, by a tally of 61% to 38%, to approve an amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution (the “New Jersey Constitution” or the “State Constitution”) increasing the State’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.25 per hour. The amendment, which took effect on January 1, 2014, sets New Jersey’s minimum wage at $1.00 per hour higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. See section 6(a)(1) of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1).
In February 2013, both houses of the New Jersey Legislature had approved the ballot question (Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1) for the November 2013 ballot.
The amendment increasing the minimum wage constitutes Article I, paragraph 23 of the New Jersey Constitution.
The amendment states that every employer must pay each employee subject to the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, N.J.S.A. §§ 34:11-56a – 34:11-56a30, the wage rate provided by that law (presently $7.25 per hour, see N.J.S.A. § 34:11-56a4) or $8.25 per hour, whichever is more. N.J. State Const., Art. I, § 23.
The amendment further states that on September 30 of each year after approval of the amendment, the minimum wage will be increased, effective the following January 1, by any increase during the one year before that September 30 in the Consumer Price Index for all urban wage earners and clerical workers (“CPI-W”) as computed by the federal government. N.J. Const., Art. I, § 23. If, at any time, the federal minimum hourly wage rate set by the Fair Labor Standards Act is raised to a higher level than the New Jersey minimum wage rate, then the State minimum wage rate will be increased to the level of the federal minimum wage rate, and all subsequent increases based on increases in the CPI-W will be applied to the New Jersey minimum wage rate as increased to match the federal minimum wage rate. N.J. State Const., Art. I, § 23.
About 50,000 workers in New Jersey earn the minimum wage.
This amendment to the New Jersey Constitution makes New Jersey the twentieth (20th) state to set a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. For this author’s May 1, 2013 blog post about the recent increase in New York’s minimum wage, see here.
Because this increase of New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.25 per hour, and these annual increases, for inflation, of the State’s minimum wage, have been incorporated into the New Jersey Constitution, there are only two means by which these increases may be repealed or changed. First, these increases may be repealed or altered by a vote of three-fifths of all the members of the New Jersey Senate and a vote of three-fifths of all the members of the New Jersey General Assembly, followed by the votes of a majority of persons voting on a ballot question. Second, these increases may be repealed or changed by the vote of a majority, but less than three-fifths, of all the members of each of the respective houses, followed, in the next legislative year, by the vote of a majority of all the members of each of the respective houses, followed by the votes of a majority of persons voting on a ballot question. N.J. State Const., Art. IX, §§ 1, 4, 6.
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