Teen Activists Unite in Support of Including Teens in NJ Minimum Wage Hike

Teen Activists Unite in Support of Including Teens in NJ Minimum Wage Hike

Teen Gun Control and DACA Activists Denounced Threats to Exclude Youth from $15 Minimum Wage as the “Latest Attack on Youth

Press Conference Accompanied Report Release by National Employment Law Center and New Jersey Policy Perspective on the Teen Workers Wages’ Impact on Household Income and State’s Economy

Perth Amboy, NJ (September 10, 2018): Dozens of teens activists from the Dreamer and gun control movement joined with teen workers today to denounce attempts to carve out New Jersey teen workers from an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Teens called the potential carve-out the “latest attack” on youth.

Teen workers work side-by-side with their older counterparts across industries, and they often perform the same work. Many young workers come from struggling low- and middle-income households, and their earnings provide essential household income. Young workers are also often high school and college students who study hard and work long hours to try and cover at least some of their education expenses and save for college. A higher minimum wage would allow them to cover more of tuition costs, finish school more quickly, and take out fewer loans.

Accompanying the press conference, the National Employment Law Project and the New Jersey Policy Perspective released a fact sheet on teen workers’ contributions to their household and the state’s economy. The fact sheet is available here: https://www.nelp.org/publication/excluding-young-new-jersey-workers-15-minimum-wage-bad-policy/

Key findings include:

  • 118,000 New Jersey teens are engaged in the workforce. Out of these, 107,000 would benefit from a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, representing an impact of over 90 percent in this group.
  • An analysis of public data by New Jersey Policy Perspective reveals that working teens (age 16–19) in households making less than $50,087 (the bottom quintile) contribute, on average, almost a fifth (18.6 percent) of their families’ total income. In families of color, teen family members contribute more to family income (19.3 percent) as compared to white families (17.3 percent).

Matthew Skolar, youth gun control activist, age 15: “It is imperative that all people, regardless of their job, age, or job status be granted a full, $15 minimum wage. As a student activist for the past 7 months supporting gun control initiatives, I have seen firsthand how youth will not allow silence and complicity from our politicians. This extends to our organizing for $15, because carving teens out is another direct threat to our livelihoods. We are saving for college. We are saving for cars. We are supporting our families. A clean, carve-out free bill is crucial to the economic stability and social well-being of all working class New Jerseyans.”


Halexther Rivero, Make the Road New Jersey youth leader:

“As a teen worker and a Dreamer, I work hard to both provide for my family and save for college. Some say teen workers just use their wages to buy shoes and do our nails. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s time for New Jersey to raise the wage for all workers, regardless of age. Teens have become organized in New Jersey from our fights to defend DACA to walkouts against gun violence. We are excited to join together to protect teen workers’ futures.”

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project:

“All workers deserve a wage that they can live on, no matter their age or occupation. Many young New Jersey workers, especially young workers of color, contribute a significant portion of their earnings to their household budgets. Short-changing young workers isn’t a route to prosperity, it’s a dead end that hurts all workers.”


Brandon McKoy, Director of Government and Public Affairs, New Jersey Policy Perspective:

“Teen workers are critical to New Jersey’s economy. We know that when teens work they use their hard-earned money to help their parents pay the bills, save for rising college costs, and support local businesses. Exempting teen workers from a $15 minimum wage is not only bad public policy, but hypocritical given New Jersey recently enacted the strongest equal pay law in the nation. Work is work, no matter who does it.”


Over the last ten weeks this summer, working class youth from Make the Road New Jersey have conducted a canvass across the state to collect thousands of petition signatures in support of a clean $15 minimum wage.


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