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National Restaurant Association - Voters approve N.J. wage hike., SeaTac votes still being counted

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Voters approve N.J. wage hike., SeaTac votes still being counted

New Jersey voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25. The measure passed in spite of a tough fight by the state’s business community, which spent about $1 million to raise awareness of the potential of the wage increase to cause job losses and slow economic growth.

Of greater concern than the one-dollar increase is the fact that future wage increases will be tied to the Consumer Price Index, said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association. “[Wage increases] being tied to the CPI is very concerning, because it doesn’t matter what the economic conditions are in the state,” she said. “If we go up to $8.25 this year and the bottom falls out of the economy next year, the wage is still going to go up.” The one upside to the measure is that tipped wages won’t be impacted, Halvorsen said. The NJRA opposed the ballot measure as part of the Coalition to Preserve Jobs and Our Constitution.

Across the country in SeaTac, Wash., officials began counting ballots on Proposition 1, which would create a $15-an-hour minimum wage for hospitality and transport workers in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The measure would also mandate paid sick leave and require employers to fill open, full-time positions with part-time workers who are already on the payroll.

Voting on the SeaTac initiative was done completely by mail. As of Nov. 9, with an estimated 850 ballots left to be counted, a mere 43 votes separated those in favor of the measure from those against the measure. Ballots may be counted through Nov. 26.

The Washington Restaurant Association played a leading role in CommonSense SeaTac, the multi-industry coalition that led the fight against Proposition 1. The National Restaurant Association also provided support. The Service Employees International Union was one of the primary supporters of the measure.

Washington voters also considered Initiative 522, which would mandate that genetically modified foods be labeled to indicate that they are modified. While items sold in restaurants would be exempted, the industry is closely monitoring the results, as the measure, if passed, would create the first such labeling law in the nation. The measure appeared to be heading for defeat as of Wednesday morning, with “no” votes leading, 55 percent to 45 percent, though several hundred thousand votes still remained to be counted.

In Colorado, a ballot initiative that would have created a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages was overwhelmingly defeated, 69 percent to 31 percent.

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