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FACT CHECK: NJ Gov Candidate Attacks Restaurant Industry with Questionable Claims, Hypocrisy on Work

Phil Murphy claimed his first paychecks stolen by an employer at age 13, but he couldn’t legally work until 14.

The Democrat nominee for governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, is out with a new TV ad that includes questionable claims about his work history and exposes him to charges of hypocrisy for his involvement in investment deals with companies that exploited their workers.

In the ad, the multi-millionaire former investment bank executive used a story of having been cheated out of his paycheck by a restaurant owner at age 13 to explain “why I’m running for governor”:

MURPHY: “At 13, my first job was washing dishes. But my boss was stealing my paychecks, unbeknownst to me, until my Dad confronted him. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of being cheated out of honest pay for honest work or the gratitude that someone had my back. That’s why I’ll fight for a livable minimum wage and equal pay, and why I’m running for governor. To take on the special interest and expand opportunity for everyone. I’ll have your back.”

Raising doubts about Murphy’s story is the fact that the legal age to work in Massachusetts, where he grew up, was actually 14 years of age. Further, under federal law since 1938, there have been restrictions on hours of work for minors under the age of 16.

The ad may also reignite debate over Murphy’s role in an investment bank’s involvement in a Taiwanese company known for exploiting its workers, which Murphy’s Democrat opponent said “undercuts what he says on the campaign trail to working families”:

On Friday, rival Democratic candidate Jim Johnson publicly assailed Murphy for his oversight of Goldman Sachs Asia and an investment the company made in a Taiwanese-based company known for exploiting workers throughout Asia. Johnson claimed the report from human rights watchdogs “undercuts what he says on the campaign trail to working families.”

NJ Advance Media reported that the company Murphy’s firm invested some $55 million into was paying its workers as little as 13 cents per hour and had “widespread violations of Chinese labor law”:

“Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings, now the world’s largest shoe company, had a well-documented history of employee abuses that included: paying slave wages to a workforce of mostly teen girls; forcing unpaid overtime; maintaining unsafe work conditions and warehousing workers in filthy dormitories. Those problems were well known before Goldman Sachs made its $55 million investment in September 1996 and Murphy took over the firm’s Asian operations in 1997.”

“A joint investigative report released in 1997 by the workers rights non-profits Asia Monitor Resource Center and the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee found that Yue Yuen employees in Dongguan, China, were paid between 13 and 20 cents an hour, earning wages between $48.19 and $72.29 for an entire month. However, if workers made mistakes, they could lose between $3 and $10 a month in fines. That same report also found widespread violations of Chinese labor law, with some 75 percent of workers interviewed saying if they failed to work overtime on top of 10-12 hour work days, they would receive a fine or a warning. Half said they never got paid for their overtime.”

“Most chillingly, the report also noted that “many workers recalled accidents which had occurred in the factory, particularly workers’ hands or fingers being cut off by the machines.”