The ballot for the upcoming election asks New Jersey voters to approve or reject an amendment to the NJ Constitution increasing New Jersey's minimum wage and mandating automatic cost-of-living increases. Advocates of this proposal would have you believe that, by raising the minimum wage, everyone working below that rate would get an immediate increase, and those out of work would be offered jobs at the higher rate.

The truth is a bit more complicated.  No one would remain employed at the higher rate if their services are not, in the eyes of their employers, worth the higher rate.  So while, no doubt, many people earning less than the new rate would initially get a bump in their hourly rate, it is equally certain that employers with limited resources would have to let many of them go - the less educated, less skilled, less experienced - as a result of the higher rate.

For those already out of work or perhaps looking for their first job out of school, the effect is more devastating.  Though touted as an enhancement to workers' rights, the actual effect of minimum wage laws is to deprive workers of a human right that is hugely important to those reaching for the bottom rung of the economic ladder: the right to compete on the basis of price when one lacks some important qualifications that employers require and which competing job-seekers already have - e.g., experience, skills, references, etc. - qualifications that can only be acquired by landing one's first job.

Like many well-intentioned ideas, this amendment, if adopted, will hurt the very people it was intended to help.

Dan Hurley

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