Oroho answer’s Murphy’s request for $15 wage, says governor did not address ‘full impact’ of move

State Sen. Steven Oroho on Thursday afternoon fought back on Gov. Phil Murphy’s early morning request for the Legislature to follow Amazon’s lead and raise the minimum wage in the state to $15.

Oroho (R-Sparta) said Murphy did not acknowledge “the full impact” of Amazon’s move.

Oroho said in a statement:

“I am sure the governor realizes that many hourly employees at businesses both large and small receive benefits, including health insurance, stock awards and bonuses, that make the total value of their compensation much higher than just their hourly wage.

“While Gov. Murphy is praising Amazon for increasing the wage portion of their employees’ compensation, he appears to ignore the fact that the company is eliminating other benefits at the same time to cover those increased wage costs.

“If other employers are forced by New Jersey elected officials to increase the wages they pay, they almost certainly will follow the example set by Amazon and reduce or eliminate other benefits like health insurance or bonuses to keep their labor costs from exploding.”

According to Oroho, Amazon has confirmed that it is eliminating incentive-based monthly bonuses and restricted stock unit awards for hourly workers to coincide with their internal wage increase.

While the company says the change will make pay more predictable for employees, some warehouse workers have expressed concerns that they will make less overall following the change.

Amazon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oroho went on to say he is not criticizing Amazon.

“My criticism is not of Amazon’s decision to adjust the structure of the compensation it offers in a competitive marketplace for workers, but of the suggestion that employers shouldn’t have the flexibility to find the right mix of pay and benefits to attract and keep employees.

“Similarly, if Amazon’s workers are unhappy with how their compensation is structured, they should have the freedom to find an employer that better meets their personal needs, even if it means accepting lower pay in exchange for other benefits that they value more, which actually may increase their family’s net cash flow. We shouldn’t take that choice away from workers at Amazon or anywhere else as many elected officials propose to do with a one-size-fits-all approach to the minimum wage.”

Oroho concluded by noting that government can’t force companies to increase total compensation, but it can create an environment where employers have additional resources to compete for the employees they need to be successful, which benefits workers.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen hundreds of businesses that employ millions of Americans announce increases in pay, bonuses and 401(k) contributions, and other forms of compensation as a result of the savings they realized through federal tax reforms.

“Businesses are choosing to compete for workers and reinvesting federal tax savings in their employees in many different ways. Workers at all levels are benefiting as a result. It’s a model we would be wise to emulate here in New Jersey.”

On Thursday morning, Gov. Murphy issued this statement:

“Amazon is leading by example through its decision to raise its U.S. minimum wage to $15 an hour. This is the right thing to do for the more than 16,000 New Jersey working families who are part of the organization’s growth and success. But, for the more than 1 million New Jersey workers who do not work for Amazon or Whole Foods and who earn less than $15 an hour, the Legislature needs to step up for them now.

“Ensuring a livable wage of $15 an hour for every working family in New Jersey is a top priority on my holiday to-do list, and I urge the Legislature to put it on theirs. We must give working families the ability to afford life’s essentials, to save for their futures and to combat the crisis of hunger so prevalent among low-wage households. We must do this before the holiday season ends. We must give working families the peace of mind of knowing that their 2019 will be better than their 2018.

“Better wages would be the best present we could give our working families. The Legislature has passed this bill before, only to see it vetoed. This time, I have my signing pen ready to go.”

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