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Ready to Wage War Over Raising New Jersey’s Minimum Wage

Businesses, he said, will have to cut back hours and benefits or lay off workers and curtail hiring.

“They have to reach their bottom line and do whatever they have to do to do that,” he said. “There are ramifications that come with (the increase). That will be an important part of our message.

How to get that message out is an issue that still needs to be discussed, he said.

“We have to see what the options are,” he said. “There is no disputing that marketing and media buy may be part of it. But we have got the New York-Northern New Jersey and Philadelphia-South Jersey markets. They are expensive. The stakeholders will have to sit down and discuss our collective thinking and determine what resources we have going forward. We know it is costly and want to do it right and hit the right message.”

Whether or not TV advertising is part of the mix, he said, business groups are likely to take advantage of social media and digital platforms.

“The younger generations are very apt to rely on that rather than turn on CBS or NBC or Fox,” he said. “Generally, they go to Twitter or Facebook, so there has to be a social media component to get a message out, as well. I see that being part of the mix, but the details still have to be worked out.”

Supporters of the wage say they will consider television and radio, but the cost could be prohibitive, so they expect to focus their resources on grassroots organizing and get-out-the-vote efforts.

“It is too early to know” whether advertising will be a part of the effort, said Rob Duffey, of the Working Families Alliance. “We’ve not made a decision on what kinds of resources we might put into television and radio. Right now, we are thinking of it through advocacy.”

“There are going to be events around the state, and we will be engaging folks through digital and social media to raise awareness of the benefits of raising the wage,” he said. The current wage of $7.25 “is too little to live on, especially in New Jersey, so we are doing what we can to get out the right information.”

Paul Penna, campaign manager for Raise the Wage NJ, a coalition of unions, faith groups and others, said their focus would be on the ground game.

“Our goal between now and November is to run an aggressive grassroots education campaign to a) inform voters of the ballot question and b) make sure that they vote and vote for the ballot question.”

Raise the Wage has held several press conferences and other events since launching in June and Penna said he expects that to continue. The group also plans to knock on doors and work through its 234 coalition partners to make sure everyone understands the benefits of an increased wage.

Dworkin said he expects the grassroots efforts to remain the primary approach on both sides, though radio may be an efficient way of getting the word out.

“New Jersey’s political geography means that to run a statewide political television campaign is very expensive,” he said. “One needs to buy network media out of New York and Philadelphia, which are the first and fourth most expensive media markets in the country.”

Cable, he said “doesn’t have the same reach.” It can be targeted, but “to move the numbers on a statewide thing, you have to go on network TV.”

In the end, the campaign is likely to resemble a more old-fashioned political operation: Door-to-door campaigning, direct mail and phone banking.

“Nobody has $20 million to support this thing,” he said. “Given the limited resources, the best course of action is to be targeted. The number one reason people vote is because someone asked them to. Just seeing an ad on Facebook doesn’t do it, but if your friends ask you to support it or oppose it, that is much more effective.”

Dworkin said there could be one wild card: Gov. Christie. The governor so far has not focused any political capital on the minimum wage referendum, though Buono has made the wage vote an issue.

“How active is the governor going to be in fighting the amendment?” he asked. “The governor is well ahead in the polls. Is he going to put his own personal reputation and popularity on the side of those who are opposing this? Is he going to be actively campaigning against it?

“It’ll be interesting to see if he jumps in, to see if the governor starts going out to public events and campaigning actively and strongly and consistently.”

Hank Kalet is a veteran journalist and editor who has covered economic issues, government, and entertainment in central New Jersey for more than two decades.

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