Op-Ed By Richard Lawton
The Record (NJ), April 26, 2018
Consumers are our real job creators in New Jersey. As a business leader, I know consumer spending is the mainstay of our economy. Businesses across New Jersey need consumers who can afford their products and services.
Raising the minimum wage is a very efficient way to boost consumer demand— and, in turn, businesses and the economy. It puts additional dollars into the hands of low-income New Jersey residents, the very people most likely to spend those dollars. This increase in consumer spending will help businesses go from surviving to thriving, add jobs, and grow the economy.
For generations, many business leaders have understood that if you pay workers bare bones wages, you limit the market for your products and services. The size of a market is a function of both demand for a product and the number of potential customers with adequate purchasing power. When businesses pay fair wages to workers, they fuel demand.
Paying employees a fair minimum wage not only boosts business by boosting consumer demand, it has far-reaching benefits inside of a business.
Take, for example, Earth Friendly Products, a 50-year-old, family-owned manufacturing company with a manufacturing plant in Parsippany. Earth Friendly Products pays a good starting wage and in return, they have attracted and retained dedicated employees, have very low voluntary turnover, which means lower hiring and training costs, and have maintained high levels of product quality, employee morale and customer satisfaction. Fair wages have created a virtuous cycle that benefits their employees and has fueled the company’s strong growth over the short- and long-term.
Raising the minimum wage will help businesses across New Jersey experience similar benefits. High turnover is common in low-wage industries, and it’s very costly to hire and train new employees. By contrast, get your employees to stick around longer, and they will be more efficient and productive. They are more invested in the success of your business. They get to know your business better, improving product quality and customer service, and freeing you up as an owner or CEO to focus on innovation. All of these benefits boost the bottom line of a business and offset the costs of raising wages.
But we can’t just leave it to individual companies to raise their starting pay voluntarily. Government has a vital role to play in setting a fair wage floor. As we’ve let the value of the minimum wage erode relative to the actual cost of living, we have shifted labor costs from the company to taxpayers. Companies that pay wages their employees can live on are faced with subsidizing their low-wage competitors through the social safety net. That’s not an efficient or fair way to run an economy.
It’s bad for business and the economy when full-time workers must rely on public subsidies like food stamps in order to provide for their basic needs. Keeping the minimum wage low fuels greater income inequality, while systematically weakening the consumer purchasing power that companies and the overall economy depend upon to thrive over the long run.
Raise the minimum wage and you create a virtuous cycle: increase consumer demand, decrease the number of working people who must rely on taxpayer subsidies, and level the playing field among businesses.
And it’s critical we pass clean legislation without carveouts for huge swaths of workers that will weaken the boost to the economy, leave thousands of workers and businesses behind, and further exacerbate income inequality across our state. I support a universal minimum wage that covers all employees, and with it, all our businesses and communities.
Raising New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 by 2023 will be good for our businesses, good for our economy, good for our people and good for our communities.
Given the pace of today’s economy, five years is plenty of time for companies to adapt to raising wages – while reaping benefits such as rising consumer demand. It’s time to do the right thing for New Jersey. I urge the Legislature to take swift action and raise our state’s minimum wage.
Richard Lawton is a small business owner, Executive Director of New Jersey Sustainable Business Council and a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
Copyright 2018 Richard Lawton
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