Daily Record: Phil Murphy talks business, $15 minimum wage in Parsippany

By William Westhoven
Daily Record (NJ), Dec. 12, 2018

As the Legislature debates a proposal to slowly raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, Gov. Phil Murphy toured a local business that says starting employees at $17 per hour is a big part of their 30-year history of success.

"If people are going to show up, and be productive, and be committed and really deliver the highest-quality products, you need to make sure to pay a living wage," said Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, CEO of Earth Friendly Products.

"Make no doubt, it is a mindset that has built a stronger company, just as I know that raising the minimum wage and putting it on that path to $15 will make our entire economy stronger," said Murphy following a tour of the facility.

Launched in 1967 and operating in New Jersey since 1988, Earth Friendly Products operates four carbon-neutral plants around the United States, including its Eastern Regional facility in Parsippany.

"When we raised our minimum wage to $17 an hour in 2014, we saw a reduction of our voluntary turnover from 3 percent to 1.5 percent," Vlahakis-Hanks said. "And when the industry is operating at somewhere between 16 and 20 percent, we can't help but note those costs that hit the bottom line. When your employees are leaving, you have rehiring costs, recruiting costs, training costs, and the loss of corporate memory."

"I'm not sure you can get much more advanced than a manufacturing facility, run on renewable energy, and the strives for carbon-neutrality, water-neutrality and achieves zero-waste," Murphy said. "Platinum certification, that's the triple crown. So hat's off to you. And it's a family-run business, and a women-owned business, and that's makes it even more special."

The minimum-wage proposal being debated by Murphy and the Legislature, however, falls far short of the benchmarks set by Earth Friendly Products, which Murphy described as "a model" for businesses who profit from paying higher wages.

"Earth Friendly Products is another prime example of making New Jersey the undisputed leader in the innovation economy, one of those sectors we look to dominate, advance manufacturing," Murphy said. "And this company keeps growing. For every person who says we can't, Earth Friendly Products is an employer that we can proudly point to and say 'Yes, we can'." ...

"A big reason to be here today is to amplify and underscore there is a lot of support for that," Murphy said. "And there's clear evidence in the business community that it's not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do."

Vlahakis-Hanks is a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a group of business owners who joined the New Jersey Policy Perspective in October to urge legislators to raise the minimum wage.

New Jersey Policy Perspective estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 will add $3.9 billion to the New Jersey economy by giving consumers more disposable income to spend in their local communities. ...

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