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San Jose Proposes Weakest $15 Minimum Wage Hike Yet

After five smaller cities in Santa Clara County have adopted ordinances to raise their minimum wages to $15/hour by 2018 or 2019, the San Jose City Council is set on November 15 to approve a delayed $15 wage increase that will keep wages lagging behind neighboring cities for years. Under the proposed ordinance, San Jose’s minimum wage wouldn’t reach $15/hour until 2020, despite the city’s own study having concluded that a $15/hour minimum wage would boost annual incomes by $3,000 for over 30 percent of San Jose’s workforce.

After opposing an effort launched by San Jose State University student activists to raise the city’s poverty minimum wage from $8 to $10/hour in 2012, Mayor Sam Liccardo finally endorsed a proposal in June 2016 by the Cities Association of Santa Clara County for all 15 cities to raise their minimum wages to $15/hour by 2019. Liccardo voiced support last year for a regionally consistent minimum wage in Santa Clara County “to avoid a patchwork of ordinances and the creation of wage islands that can create inequities across city limits.”

Wages for San Jose workers would lag behind neighboring cities. Increases above $15 due to inflation were estimated by the City of Palo Alto.
Wages for San Jose workers would lag behind neighboring cities. Increases above $15 due to inflation were estimated by the City of Palo Alto.

But San Jose’s $15 by 2020 proposal does exactly that – it creates yet another schedule of wage increases different from and slower than those adopted already by Mountain View and Sunnyvale ($15 by 2018) and Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Los Altos ($15 by 2019). $15 by 2020 would keep San Jose’s minimum wage lower than those cities and any others that adopt the Cities Association recommendation even after 2020, because those cities will begin raising their minimum wages above $15/hour according to inflation beginning in 2018.

The justification given by San Jose Economic Development Kim Walesh for the one-year delay in reaching $15/hour is “to avoid a potential cumulative effect of other ballot driven costs and requirements for San Jose employers” and “for sufficient planning and transition time, especially for nonprofits and small businesses.”

$15/hour by 2020 is Item 3.4 on the San Jose City Council’s November 15 agenda. The meeting begins at 11 am at San Jose City Hall, 200 E Santa Clara Street.