What started as a school project for a San Jose State University sociology class has turned into an organized campaign to change San Jose law regarding what lowest hourly wage workers must be paid.
A coalition of community organizations and social justice groups is supporting the campaign to raise the minimum wage in San Jose from $8 to $10 an hour. Supporters of the initiative were required to collect a little over 19,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2012 ballot. They have collected more than 35,000, which were delivered to the San Jose City Clerk’s office for verification.
Cindy Chavez, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council:
The South Bay Labor Council firmly supports this initiative. We will be working hard this campaign season to make sure the measure not only gets on the ballot in November but, in fact, passes so we can begin to see the changes we are so desperately in need of in this community.
At the current rate of $8 an hour, a worker earns slightly more than $16,000 a year, not enough to raise a family and make ends meet in the Silicon Valley. Raising the minimum wage to $10 is a step in the right direction to allow workers to earn a living wage and raise their families with a more dignified standard of living.
Michael Cervantes, a former Marine Sergeant who served in Iraq, now works for minimum wage. He told the coalition of supporters who turned in the signatures
I came home from serving in Iraq to a job with a multi-billion dollar company that pays me barely enough to get by. Thank you for doing this for me and everyone who deserves to earn a good wage.
Chavez told the group the measure is not only good for working families, but also good for businesses. Employers not only care about the wages they pay, they also care about workers’ productivity, and the rise in the pay by itself is likely to cause workers to be more productive. An increase in minimum wage could increase productivity is by reducing turnover.
It should be noted that most workers who benefit from a minimum wage hike are not teenagers. About 70 percent of the workers who received an increase as a result of the last minimum-wage increase were 20 or older, according to this study.
According to Poncho Guevarra, director of Sacred Heart Community Service and member of the Raise the Wage San Jose coalition:
It makes a real difference in the lives of people we serve. Half of our clients earn less than $10 an hour. This is a real way of demonstrating the solution to address the condition of poverty in our community.
The signatures must be verified by the City Clerk’s office before qualifying for the ballot. The San Jose City Council could avoid a costly ballot process by adopting the wage increase as a local ordinance once the signatures are verified.