San Jose will consider skirting its living wage policy to appease a massive corporation and some developers. The City Council on Tuesday will discuss an appeal from Starbucks and other vendors to be exempt from the rule—they’re interested in leasing space at City Hall and the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.
The living wage standards, established in 1988, require contractors and vendors contracted by the city to pay employees equitably and sufficiently. These days, that translates to $15.78 an hour if the employer offers health benefits, or $17.03 if they don’t.
Developer Don Imwalle Jr., son of City Hall’s original developer, said he was concerned about having to pay that much if he helps fill in 6,000 square feet of now-empty storefronts along Fourth Street.
Starbucks—the biggest coffee company on the planet—said the same: Imposing wage requirements on a lease for a café outside the convention center would create a competitive hardship.
Shortly after the council memo got posted, union reps took to defending the wage policy in the Mercury News.
“Weakening living wage standards would put San Jose and its vendors in the same class of employer as Wal-Mart and McDonalds, who pay poverty-level wages and push their employees onto government assistance so that taxpayers subsidize them,” SEIU-USWW’s Mike Garcia and Unite HERE Local 19’s Enrique Fernandez wrote.
Several councilmembers—Sam Liccardo, Madison Nguyen, Rose Herrera—and Mayor Chuck Reed sided with Starbucks and Imwall Properties, saying the city should grant these multimillion-dollar companies an exemption to help the city fill up its retail space.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for December 17, 2013:
• Santa Clara County missed its shot at a lease deal with the city. San Jose police asked the city to relocate the police helicopter from NASA Ames to the county’s Reid-Hillview Airport. When the county missed deadlines to pull together a lease agreement, the city had no choice but to write up a renewed lease agreement with NASA.
• The city’s on a talent search for an artist to work on a $480,000 public art installment at the under-construction Berryessa BART station.
• Painting the San Jose/Santa Clara Wastewater Treatment Facility will cost $400,000.
• A contract going before the council will make sure all security guard companies contracted by the city pay their employees a wage consistent with the city’s living wage policy.
• Rural/Metro, the financially embattled ambulance company that serves all county residents, owes San Jose $750,000 for employing city emergency services. The county will have to cover for the company, which recently filed for bankruptcy.
• San Jose’s about to help buy a defunct mental hospital to help a Santa Clara school district turn it into a high school.
• Plans to put a BMX park by Raging Waters moves forward this week. Consulting services alone will cost $500,000.
• When a developer wants to build in San Jose, the city asks for conditional improvements, like infrastructure, a park or something else in the public’s interest. Sometimes, the city accepts a fee instead, using the money to make an improvement without the developer’s direct involvement. Here’s an annual report of those exchanges, which the city calls its in-lieu fee program.
• All those copper wire thefts from public utilities will cost the city $500,000.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408-535-1260