While Mountain View considers upping the hourly minimum wage from $9 to $10.15, activists are saying that's not enough.
“No one can live on $10 here,” said Meghan Fraley, 31. “This is an expensive community and there is a great deal of invisible poverty. We have a huge problem.”
For a year now, Fraley, a co-organizer of advocacy group Politically Inspired, has lobbied to raise wages for the city's poorest workers. She points to San Jose as a model, where voters raised the hourly minimum from $8 to $10, with an adjustment to $10.15 in January for inflation.
Leading up to the voter-approved wage hike in Silicon Valley's largest city, business leaders and restaurant lobbyists cautioned that businesses would have to cut jobs and raise prices, that unemployment would increase and the economy would suffer.
In fact, San Jose's jobless rate dropped since the 2012 policy change. (The Silicon Valley Business Journal wrote a very informative article about the effects of the policy a year later, which weren't nearly as dire as opponents predicted.)
Next month, Mountain View's City Council will consider raising the minimum wage higher than the state's, which is set at $9 an hour.
Modeled after San Jose’s minimum wage ordinance, the proposed rate in Mountain View would be set at $10.15 (adjusted over time for inflation), and would go into effect July 2015. It would apply to any business inside the city or under the jurisdiction of a Mountain View Business License.
The average monthly rent in Mountain View is $2,082, about $300 higher than San Jose's, according to market tracker RealFacts. A minimum-wage earner working full-time in Mountain View would only take home just $1,440 a month.
Fraley says the city should consider the living wage—how much a person has to earn to support themselves or their family. Given the cost of living in Mountain View, that amounts to at least $12 an hour for a single adult, according to the MIT's Living Wage Calculator. Here are the living wage estimates for Mountain View, based on family size:
"If Seattle can [raise the minimum to $15 an hour] without as much affluence as Mountain View, then we absolutely can afford it," Fraley said.
Politically Inspired is encouraging proponents of the $15-minimum to attend a city-hosted forum Monday night, where citizens can give public input to the council. The forum takes place from 6:30 to 8pm on Sept. 8 at the Senior Center, 266 Escuela Ave., in Mountain View. Free childcare will be provided. Those who can't attend are encouraged to email the city at [email protected]
“It’s really inspiring to see how successful San Jose’s model as been,” Fraley said. “It tells us we can get into theoretical debates but when we look at real impact, it is something we can afford and can make work for everything.”
The rest of the Bay Area is mobilizing as well. San Francisco is set to vote on a $15 minimum wage in November, with Berkeley and Oakland following similar measures. Sunnyvale voted in May to adopt San Jose’s model and jumpstart the hike from $8 to $10 by January 2015, ahead of the state.
Up north, fast-food workers in Sacramento joined the Service Employees International Union in a nation-wide effort on Thursday to seek a $15 per hour minimum wage, launching a rally in the capital’s streets. The organized strikes and protests sprouted in more than 100 cities in the U.S. Sacramento’s demonstration included around 500 fast-food employees.