A unanimous San Jose City Council agreed to let the voters decide on the measure that would increase the pay of the city’s lowest wage workers by $2 an hour. The current state minimum wage stands at $8. San Jose would be only the 5th city in the country to establish a more livable citywide minimum wage.
At a public hearing that stretched late into the evening, hundreds of supporters urged the city council to adopt the wage increase immediately. Those outspoken supporters included the owner of a downtown institution, Emile’s Restaurant.
“This will do nothing but drive the economy here,” said Alexandra Dorian, owner of Emile’s who says she already pays her employees above the $10 minimum the new measure would establish. Dorian told the council she looks forward to an economic climate where businesses pay their employees a livable wage.
While the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce argued against a local wage increase of any kind, the number of supporters for the issue far outweighed the opponents. Council Member Ash Kalra, whose substitute motion to adopt the measure as a city ordinance failed, quoted Nelson Mandela in his argument, saying
'Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it’s an act of justice.' There are billions of dollars in this valley; there shouldn’t be people going hungry.
Union activist Fred Hirsch gave an eloquent speech, within the one-minute limit council allowed for speakers:
Today’s your chance to avoid a storm against you at the ballot box. Raise the wage by $2 now. Vote yes because it’s right and yes to show you were raised to be decent human beings.
But the council rejected Kalra’s motion to adopt the measure outright. Councilmember Nancy Pyle said, “It shouldn’t be 11 people making the decision, it should be the voters of San Jose.”
The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council is part of the coalition driving the increase, helping to gather 35,000 voter signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
The campaign to pass the measure starts now. For more information on how to get involved in fighting for our city’s lowest wage workers, click here.