Activists rally for $15 minimum wage
Workers rallied outside a Wal-Mart in Hudson County Friday demanding an increase in minimum wage.
They want New Jersey to raise its minimum hourly pay to $15.
Organizers say they chose Wal-Mart because thousands of shoppers are expected to pass through for Black Friday deals.
"We think that Wal-Mart has made a lot of their money by paying people poverty wages," says Brian Powers, of the group 15 Now New Jersey. "These people rely on food stamps and other social services to get by in life."
With 1.5 million employees Wal-Mart is America's largest employer. It has made some concessions. In 2016 it raised wages to $10 an hour.
But someone working the minimum full-time schedule of 34 hours a week takes home just $18,000 a year.
"It's not enough to survive on," says Debra Lamego. "You can't make the rent. You can't feed yourself. Basically, you have to live with your family."
Lamego says she works for a big retailer and makes $9.99 an hour.
Melissa Tomlinson, a teacher, says she has seen the effects of low wages on her students.
"We have kids that come to school hungry," Tomlinson says. "They don't have the right clothes, the warm coats they need in winter. And they can't learn until those basic needs are met."
The New Jersey Legislature nearly passed a $15 minimum wage, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill in June.
State measures have been difficult to obtain, but several large cities like Seattle, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have increased minimum wage to $15 an hour. New York state passed a wage increase, but it will be phased in over time.