The San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want voters to pass Measure D, an increase in the city’s minimum wage. Mayor Chuck Reed doesn’t want it to pass. Even Silicon Valley’s Goodwill Industries doesn’t want it to pass. Or does it?
In a ballot argument against Measure D, the nonprofit agency is cited as one of the employers that will be hit hardest by raising salaries for low-wage workers from $8 to $10.
“Measure D means you’ll have to pay more for groceries, gas—even a hamburger,” according to the ballot argument. “And it will hurt those who need that help the most. Goodwill Industries, which helps train people with disabilities, estimates that if this measure passes it will have to cut 100 job-training positions.”
This came as a surprise to Mike Fox, Jr., Goodwill Silicon Valley’s president and CEO. Fox said Goodwill’s board of directors did not take a position for or against Measure D, and he only became aware of the nonprofit’s inclusion in the ballot argument after reading a San Jose Inside post last week by columnist Rich Robinson, a local political consultant.
“From our standpoint, I think what our board’s position and mine is, if Measure D passes or doesn’t pass, our position is we’re going to do everything we can to maximize our impact on the community,” Fox said. “We’re not looking at Measure D as an excuse to do what we need to do.”
He added that Goodwill never provided an official number to anyone on potential job cuts. “Where they came up with that, I don’t know.”
After being alerted, Fox said he had a conversation with Chamber CEO Matt Mahood. He wouldn’t divulge the details of that conversation, but sources say Fox wasn’t happy. Nonprofits generally shy away from sensitive political issues that could jeopardize their funding.
Mahood declined comment and directed questions to Tab Berg, a campaign consultant for the Chamber. “All I can say is the statement and numbers are accurate,” Berg said.
Doubling down on an unauthorized number, as well as insinuating that disabled people will lose jobs if Measure D passes, is a bold play. But Berg disagreed. “I don’t think anyone is going to vote for or against it because of one line about Goodwill,” he said.
Then why include Goodwill in the first place? That’s a question that goes deeper into the off-the-cuff discussions among Chamber members. Sources say Fox did give Chamber officials examples of how the nonprofit could be negatively affected by an increased minimum wage, he just didn’t intend for those examples to be incorporated into a ballot argument. Fox did not respond to messages for a follow-up interview.