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Appeals Court Upholds Hudson County (NJ) Living Wage Law

November 30, 2005

For Immediate Release
Friday, October 7, 2005

Contact Information:
Paul Sonn, 212 998–6328
Ken Zimmerman, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, 973 624–9400 ext.23

Appeals Court Upholds Hudson County Living Wage Law
Confirms city power to set wage standards to protect working families

Hudson County, NJ A state appeals court in New Jersey today upheld Hudson Countys living wage law. The ruling reverses a 2003 trial court decision striking down the countys wage ordinance.

This decision removes any doubt that cities and counties in New Jersey can adopt living wage laws to protect the working poor in their communities, said Paul Sonn, Deputy Director of the Poverty Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The Brennan Center joined with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and a broad coalition of community and religious groups from across the state to file a friend-of-the-court brief defending the Hudson County law.

130 cities and counties across the country, including four New Jersey communities, have enacted living wage laws over the last decade. The lower court decision that was reversed today had been one of the only court rulings nationally to question cities authority to enact such measures.

This decision reaffirms that local governments can do what is necessary to ensure that those who work under public sector contracts will not remain in poverty, said Ken Zimmerman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. While only a first step, the decision makes clear the legality of one of the key mechanisms being used for this purpose.

The lower court had ruled that New Jerseys state minimum wage law stripped New Jersey localities of the power to set higher minimum wages for businesses receiving municipal contracts. The court had also found that the Hudson County ordinance improperly targeted its protections to low-wage workers in certain industries. The court of appeals reversed these rulings, finding that local governments can permissibly target problem conditions in specific industries, and that the New Jersey legislature earlier this year had expressly authorized cities and counties to enact living wage laws.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law works with federal, state and local policy makers to promote progressive policy reform in a range of issue areas. The Centers Economic Justice Project supports initiatives to expand access to family-sustaining jobs for low-income communities.

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is an urban research and advocacy organization based in Newark, New Jersey, committed to challenging the barriers that prevent urban areas and residents from reaching their full potential. The Institutes Economic Opportunity Initiative focuses on developing high quality employment opportunities in New Jerseys cities.