The Great Minimum Wage War

The South Bay Labor Council held a kickoff party Tuesday night promoting the November ballot initiative to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10. While many expect the coming months of debate to be framed in 99 vs. 1 percent terms—labor groups and low-wage workers battling lobbying heavyweights like the California Restaurant Association (word is the lobbyist group has already kicked in millions to defeat a similar federal ballot measure)—it seems some incongruous characters in Silicon Valley are working toward a compromise. San Jose Councilmember Sam Liccardo, fresh off of helping Mayor Chuck Reed pass his pension reduction initiative, Measure B, has been on a mission to mend fences with public employees. Part of Liccardo’s work included the enlistment of San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Matt Mahood, asking him to encourage his board to accept an increased minimum wage in San Jose in phases. Mahood’s board apparently became incensed when the president proposed they show him the money. But several political consultants admitted that Mahood’s suggested compromise is common sense and part of an overall plan to reel the Chamber in from its rightward leanings to a more centrist position. One source called it a “Jim Cunneen-ish kind of play,” in reference to the former state assemblyman Chamber CEO who preceded Pat Dando. “When people are hurting so much, I think [the measure] passes,” said another source. But as one policon conceded, “If the California Restaurant Association is pouring so much money into this, then the Chamber can’t back off this stance—at least on this issue.”

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

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