San Jose Debates How Soon to Phase in $15 Minimum Wage

San Jose plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 before the state takes similar action, but city officials disagree about how quickly to phase it in and whether to allow certain exemptions.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider several proposals about when to reach $15. Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Rose Herrera and council members Manh Nguyen and Chappie Jones want to reach $15 by July 2019. Council members Raul Peralez, Ash Kalra, Don Rocha and Magdalena Carrasco propose getting to $15 six months sooner.

The 2019 deadline was proposed by the Cities Association of Santa Clara County as part of a region-wide effort to raise the hourly minimum for low-wage workers. Surrounding cities will shift to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.

City staff recommended a deadline of 2020, which is still two years ahead of the state’s plan to phase up to $15 by 2022. Councilman Johnny Khamis wants to run with the staff proposal, which still puts San Jose ahead of the rest of the state.

“The staff proposal seems reasonable and balanced, yet some advocates are pushing to accelerate the implementation to as early as January 1 of the coming year,” Khamis wrote in a memo. “Such a sudden implementation would be harmful to the city and to businesses and non-profits, especially in light of all of the other changes and costs that have been—or will soon be—imposed exclusively on San Jose employers.”

Khamis included a list of those changes, which include several tax increases voters approved last week. There’s also the Opportunity to Work initiative, which requires employers to offer more hours to part-time workers before hiring on new staff.

Source: Councilman Johnny Khamis

Source: Councilman Johnny Khamis

Council members are also divided on whether to exempt foster youth, parolees and homeless people from the wage increase. The mayor suggested excluding foster youth in transitional job programs. Kalra, Peralez and Carrasco called the exemptions unfair to people in the most need.

“An exemption to the minimum wage for these vulnerable populations hinders their ability to make their families ends meet,” the council members wrote.

San Jose emerged as a regional leader in the effort to raise the minimum wage, when in 2012 it raised the wage floor to $10 by way of a citizen ballot initiative. Other cities have since surpassed San Jose. Cupertino, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale have all passed ordinances to reach $15 by 2019 with no exemptions.

Twenty-nine states, Washington D.C. and 21 cities and counties have set a higher minimum wage than the federal rate of $7.25.

Opponents of San Jose’s wage increase in 2012 called the proposal a jobs killer. But those predictions never materialized.

Proponents of a wage increase argue that labor is worth a lot more to companies than they’re paying for it. According to a regional study, the majority of people who earn minimum wage are adults who provide more than half of their family’s income.

Today’s low-wage workers are also more educated than ever. Forty-six percent have some college education compared to 17 percent in 1968, according to the Economic Policy Institute. But, after adjusting for inflation, they make 23 percent less than they did almost 50 years ago.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for November 15, 2016:

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30m Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

This article has been updated.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. $73k for the swings… not to purchase them mind you- to have them in the park for a few months. Specifically, over $23,000 for just October.

    San Jose consistently shows itself to be fiscally irresponsible, yet they mysteriously always need more tax money. Perhaps the media could find some sort of connection?

  2. I think that Khamis might be wrong about the passage of Measure Y, the Santa Clara Unified School District parcel tax.

    According to the SCC Elections webpage, the YES vote on Measure Y was 66.41%. That’s with all precincts reporting.

    Measure Y required a two thirds majority to pass: 66.67%.

    By my calculation, it lost by 231 votes.

    FINALLY, a tax increase that lost!

  3. I have NEVER been able to get a proggie to explain: if a minimum wage of $15 is a great idea, why isn’t a minimum wage of $1,500 per hour a hundred times better?

    Wouldn’t that show a hundred times more compassion and big heartedness? Why are proggies so mean spirited and miserly to low income workers?

    • I think it means we can cut wages down to $15 an hour thus making income equitable to all parties.
      It’s the communist thing to do. How about a raise for those on Social Security and unemployment to?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *