15 Now NJ supports youth workers and their right to earn a living wage. Throughout the country and in New Jersey, there has been a discussion about excluding teenagers from the wave of recent minimum wage increases. Such a loophole is unfair and unwarranted since the fast-food and major retail chains are seeing record corporate profits, and can readily afford to pay a higher minimum wage.
The dominant narrative would have you believe that the majority of low wage workers are teenagers earning pocket money. However, three-quarters of minimum-wage workers are age 20 or older. More than 25% are parents, and a majority of them are the primary or only providers for their household. Most low-wage workers are not able to advance to better-paying jobs. Entry-level positions in the fast-food industry offer few prospects for promotion or advancement, despite the often-advanced “mobility myth.” In addition, nearly two-thirds of low wage workers are women.
So why shouldn’t teens be excluded? Well, many youth workers are helping to support their parents or their own families. An Urban Institute study of working teens found that a third of the kids contribute more than 20 percent of the total annual income of their households, a tenth contributed more than 50 percent.
Students shouldn’t have to drop out of school to support their families or because they need to pay back a mountain of student loan debt. We need an economy that works for working people and youth and a system that allows them to reach their full potential. 15 Now NJ supports the growing movements for economic justice. Teens who are struggling along with their parents shouldn’t be excluded from these increases.
Can you help with a donation that will enable us to print up cards and leaflets debunking myths about the minimum wage and letting people know how to reach us? How much can you give to the cause? Can you volunteer to table or canvass helping us build our contact list? Please sign our petition and forward it along to your contacts!