Measure D on Minimum Wage: SF Living Wage Coalition's Report. PNN Election Issue


Tiny - Posted on 22 October 2012

Author: 
Karl Kramer

October 22, 2012

San Jose voters will decide on the November 6 ballot whether to have a city-wide minimum wage of $10 per hour. If passed, Measure D will establish a municipal minimum wage $2 above the state minimum wage of $8 per hour, with no exceptions, no exclusion of tipped employees - such as restaurant workers - and an annual increase based on the Bay Area’s rate of inflation.

San Jose State University students initiated the campaign by raising money, information tabling, and holding educational events, according to Albert Perez, a recent sociology graduate and activist in the Campus Alliance for Economic Justice (CAFE J).

“We believe we can win,” said Perez, “if the swing voters come out.”

San Jose would join San Francisco, Santa Fe, NM, and Washington, D.C., in setting a minimum wage above federal and state minimum wage laws. Albuquerque, NM, also will be voting on a municipal minimum wage on November 6.

A coalition including the South Bay Labor Council, the NAACP – Silicon Valley, Sacred Heart Community Services, Catholic Charities and the Silicon Valley Council of Non-profits are supporting Measure D.

The Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, California Restaurant Association and Downtown San Jose Association are opposing the measure.

The campaign for a higher minimum wage began in the spring 2010 Social Action class taught by Professor Scott Myers-Lipton of Sociology Department at San Jose State University.

A student, Marisela Castro, had witnessed kids sneaking food into their backpacks at the after school program where she worked because their parents were not able to provide enough food at home on the $8 per hour minimum wage they earned. Incensed at the injustice, Castro proposed the idea of passing a higher city minimum wage as a class project.

Sociology student Perez pointed at the need that students have for a higher wage. He said he paid $4200 in tuition in his last semester. According to Myers-Lipton, tuition has increased 141 percent since the last increase in the state minimum wage.

The students held a rally on campus with John Carlos, the athlete who raised a gloved fist in the 1968 Olympics to protest human rights violations and went shoeless to protest poverty.

After the students collected 36,000 signatures in six weeks to qualify the initiative for the ballot, they similarly took off their shoes to walk the petitions over to the registrar of voters, according to Myers-Lipton.

Elisha St. Laurent, a behavioral science and sociology major, who is a single parent and former CalWORKs participant, became involved while she was working for $9 per hour at Microcenter, a computer appliance store. “And I had to take a proficiency test to get the job,” St. Laurent said.

“$8 an hour is not enough to live in San Jose. We pay an average of $1600 to $1800 per month in rent. San Jose is the second highest in California,” said Diana Crumedy, a sociology graduate with a minor in urban planning.

The students said that most of the opposition is coming from the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce which has been attacking the measure for its increased payroll costs to businesses and cost of enforcement to the city. The students said these are scare tactics but are worried about how much money the Chamber has spent on television commercials.

“We had canvassed small businesses downtown and they were supportive,” Crumedy said, “until the Chamber of Commerce sent out a mass email and letter that this will be a job killer and violate their privacy.”

“Our strong point is people, and the morality of how people are living when they are not making enough to live in the city,” Crumedy said.

Brooke Wayne, a sociology major with a concentration in community action, knows what it is like growing up in the South in a “right-to-work” state, where wages are depressed when unions cannot require membership dues. As an African American in Arkansas, the home state of Walmart, she also knows the corporate mentality that is not too far removed from slavery.

“They would not be fighting the minimum wage if it wasn’t affecting women so much,” Wayne said. “If it was something affecting mostly blond, blue-eyed men, it would be a different story.”

The campaign needs to raise $43,000 to send out mailers in the next fifteen days. You can make a donation at bit.ly/yesond

PNN RADIO

Sign-up for POOR email!