Minimum wage increase one step closer in San Jose

The City of San Jose, California moved one step closer to increasing the city’s minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 an hour when the City Council voted on May 1 to conduct a study on the impact that a minimum wage increase will have on the local economy.

A campaign led by labor and community groups gathered more than 36,000 signatures on a petition to put a minimum wage increase referendum on the ballot next November. Last week the Santa Clara County Registrar certified the initiative for the ballot.

The Raise the Wage San Jose coalition urged the City Council to adopt the increased minimum wage as an ordinance. The council voted instead for a study that would clarify the impact of the raise.

Supporters of the raise considered the study a step forward because the local Chamber of Commerce was using a survey slanted to give answers only showing the negative impact that a raise would have. The results of the survey would likely be used by the chamber to oppose a minimum wage increase.

The council mandated that the study include a breakdown of demographic characteristics of those whose wage would be raised, an analysis of the effects that a raise would have on low-income workers’ ability to afford necessities such as food and shelter, a review of the benefits and drawbacks of an increase, and the use of San Francisco’s experience with raising the minimum wage as a real life example of the impact that a raise would have. Some council members supported an adoption of a new minimum wage ordinance.

“We are encouraged by the support not only for the wage increase, but also for the direction to make sure a fiscal impact study is fair and balanced,” said Cindy Chavez, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “This measure is good for working families and will be good for our economy.”

The campaign to increase the minimum wage began as a project among some sociology students at San Jose State. The project won the backing of local labor and community groups, and a coalition was formed to gather signatures on a petition to put the wage increase on the November ballot.

The Raise the Wage San Jose coalition consists of the South Bay Central Labor Council, the Campus Alliance for Justice, Sacred Heart Community Services, nxtgen, the NAACP San Jose Chapter, and Pride @ Work.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage argue that doing so will hurt low-wage workers because businesses will reduce their workforce rather than pay the higher minimum wage to all their workers. But supporters argue that this assertion does not hold up to careful analysis.

According to Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the University of California at Berkeley who co-authored a recent study on the impact of minimum wage increases unemployment, “the best scientific research has confirmed that raising the minimum wage helps low-wage workers without causing job losses.”

Proponents also argue that increasing the minimum wage could be good for business because the higher wage will increase local consumption and demand. “An increase in the minimum wage would help low-wage workers make up for lost ground and boost consumer spending,” writes Allegretto. “Putting a little more money in the hands of those who greatly need it and will spend much of it locally is good policy.”

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