Two years after upping its local minimum wage, San Jose may back a statewide effort to raise the minimum to $13 an hour by 2017.
The City Council will vote Tuesday whether or not to support the bill by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). Leno's legislation, introduced in December, would hike the state's hourly minimum wage to $11 by 2016, $13 by 2017 and start yearly inflation adjustments in 2019.
Mayor Sam Liccardo, who voted against San Jose's minimum wage increase in 2012 because it didn't allow for small businesses to gradually phase in, said the policy makes more sense at a state instead of municipal level.
"We recognize that a booming economy has not carried all of our residents along with it and that thousands are left behind facing much higher housing costs," Liccardo told San Jose Inside. "We need to find ways of ensuring that everyone can participate in the prosperity of the region."
Under existing law, California's minimum wage will reach $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2016. Some local cities already have a higher minimum wage than that figure. San Jose's is $10.30, with yearly adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. Oakland recently upped its base hourly wage to $12.25 effective this month. San Francisco voted in an incremental climb to $15 an hour by 2018. Berkeley agreed to a $12.53 minimum by October 2016.
A statement from Leno's office stressed that, despite those local efforts, more than a quarter of Californians live in poverty.
Mayor Liccardo, Vice Mayor Rose Herrera and council members Raul Peralez and Magdalena Carrasco co-signed a memo supporting the wage hike.
"We all agree that no San Josean or Californian who works full-time should have to live in poverty," they wrote.
The group points to a study by the Congressional Research Service, which shows the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour) has steadily dwindled since 1968, when it equated to $10.77 in today's dollars.
"The problem of a stagnant minimum wage is magnified in California, and in particular, places like Silicon Valley," the mayor and council members' memo stated. "As we well know, the cost of living in San Jose is one of the highest in the nation and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen."
Councilman Johnny Khamis said the state bill would threaten small businesses, namely pho restaurants, taquerias, independent bookstores, dry cleaners, neighborhood grocers and other mom-and-pop shops. The only survivors, he said, would be national chains that can "replace people with technology."
"Minimum wage jobs are not jobs intended for supporting oneself and one's family over the long run nor for maintaining a certain standard of living, they are stepping stones to better jobs," he wrote in a memo. "Instead of raising the minimum wage to the point where people can be complacent in a training-level job, people should be motivated to do their best to improve their earning potential as they build skills and develop specialized knowledge, starting at minimum wage and moving upward from there."
Instead, Khamis proposes an age-based minimum wage.
Councilman Chappie Jones agreed in his own memo that the wage increase is a step in the right direction, but he suggested there should be some exceptions: small business, youth employment organizations and nonprofits.
"These businesses are a pathway for minorities and immigrants to enter the middle class and achieve the American dream," Jones wrote. "Often times these businesses operate on very thin margins—think of the small coffee shop or restaurant that employs less than 15 employees. An increase in the minimum wage could force them to reduce the amount of workers they employ or even force them out of business."
Liccardo said he hopes legislators will be open and flexible in their approach.
While some studies in the wake of San Jose's minimum wage hike reinforced the idea that restaurants were forced to cut pay and lay people off, figures from the city's Office of Economic Development contradicted those claims.
About a year ago, NBC Bay Area found that in the year after the city's minimum wage increase, the jobless rate dropped, the number of businesses expanded and the hospitality industry actually added 4,000 jobs.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for March 10, 2015:
- San Jose may sign an amicus brief opposing an effort to block President Obama's executive action to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. A Texas judge's order forced the Obama administration to delay the program less than two days before federal agents were about to start processing applications for immigration relief. San Jose plans to join the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities in their amicus brief in the appeal of the Texas v. United States lawsuit to support Obama's immigration reform. Here's a copy of the brief and some background on the lawsuit. "It's important that we continue to be a place where immigrants feel welcome and have the opportunity to succeed," Liccardo said.
- Both Bay 101 and Casino M8trix had glitches in surveillance, preventing city regulators from keeping an eye on things for a period of time.
- Labor negotiations remain at a standstill, but Liccardo said that the council stands ready to negotiate without preconditions.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260