Through hip-hop, 'spoken word' poetry and music, one strong message permeated a room full of worker advocates and supporters last night in San Jose: “It’s time for Ten!” they cheered, voicing their support for a November ballot measure that would increase the minimum wage in San Jose to $10/hour.
The event, held at IBEW Local 332, featured National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (herself an IBEW member) who flew in from Washington, D.C. to throw her support behind the minimum wage campaign, which was launched by a San Jose State University sociology class and has drawn the support of hundreds from community groups, businesses, elected officials and individuals. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler offered her unwavering endorsement of the increase as she lauded the group of young activists who launched the minimum wage effort.
What you’re doing here in raising the minimum wage is going to help so many people. It’s heartening for me to see not only so many labor activists coming together, but you’re actually leading the charge. You’re inspiring the labor movement in this instance and our community partners who might not have taken this fight on if it weren’t for you.
If passed, the measure would make San Jose only the fifth city in America with a citywide minimum wage, and would directly affect 41,000 people in low wage jobs, pumping an estimated $71 million into the local economy, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Cindy Chavez hosted the event, which included an original rap song about the minimum wage issue composed by young community activists from “Silicon Valley De-Bug”, a media, community organizing and entrepreneurial collective based in San Jose. Social justice advocate Adriana Garcia performed a spoken word piece decrying the treatment and lack of opportunities for low-wage workers in the community.
One theme both Chavez and Shuler touched on was the misrepresentation of the issue expected from opponents of the wage increase. The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce is reportedly planning to spend $1.5 million on a campaign to defeat the measure, arguing it will cause job loss and deter businesses from opening in San Jose — which is simply not true.
According to Chavez:
Research shows wage increases are good for the economy. People will spend their newly earned money locally and businesses will be better off for it.
Shuler underscored the importance of education and mobilization as the key to victory.
You’ve got to be the Truth Squad, and get out the facts!
Volunteer opportunities with the Truth Squad can be found at www.atwork.org and www.raisethewagesj.com. Phone banks are taking place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30-8:30pm, and precinct walks begin at 9 a.m., August 25 at the Santa Clara Valley Labor Center (2102 Almaden Road, San Jose). Learn more and sign up to join the campaign.