Measure D

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In San Jose, Voters Ponder Raising Minimum Wage by 25 Percent

Aerial view of downtown San Jose.

Aerial view of downtown San Jose. (Helene Labriet-Gross/AFP/Getty Images)

What started as a San Jose State University class project has morphed into a real politics. In November, San Jose voters will vote on Measure D [PDF] – which would raise the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 an hour.

Both sides claim their arguments are simple. If you think $8 an hour is not a livable wage in San Jose, then you should vote yes. If you think hiking the minimum wage by 25 percent would cost jobs, then vote no.

But like most things in life and politics, nothing is really that simple, as evidenced by the Measure D debate on KQED’s Forum Wednesday morning. One of the main arguments against Measure D is that it would make San Jose an island of higher minimum wage and would put San Jose businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Continue reading

In San Jose, Once a Class Project, Now a Major Political Battle

by Peter Jon Shuler

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What was once just a class project has taken on a life of its own, with business and labor lining up against each other in campaigns run by seasoned professionals.

As we reported Tuesday, San Jose voters will decide in November on a minimum wage measure that  started as a student class project at San Jose State University. Measure D would raise wages from $8.00 an hour to $10.00 and is gaining support from a growing coalition that includes labor unions and non-profit organizations like Catholic Charities and United Way.  Business groups, on the other hand, have said they plan to spend more than a million dollars in opposition.

Albert Perez, Diana Crumedy and Saul Gomez, students who started San Jose minimum wage measure. (Peter Jon Shuler/KQED)

Last January, San Jose State students taking a class on social action kicked off the petition drive for the measure, after being the first to sign. They had just spent nearly a year fundraising, conducting public opinion polls and going out into the community to gather support. And within just five weeks, they collected more than enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for San Jose’s November ballot.

Sociology professor Scott-Myers Lipton designed the class to help students make the leap from merely thinking and talking about issues to engaging in the political process.

“Our culture doesn’t do a great job in asking our students much more than this idea of voting,” he says. “And so how do we impact social policy? That’s not a question they’re familiar with or I think that the students feel they can actually have a say in.”

Myers-Lipton says instead of feeling helpless or railing against social problems, his students identify the issues that concern them then learn concrete ways to take action. This class developed the minimum wage measure based on their own struggles to get by on $8.00 an hour. Continue reading

San Jose’s Measure D Would Raise City’s Minimum Wage 25%

By Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

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In November, San Jose residents will vote on whether or not to become one of the few cities in the nation to raise its minimum wage above the state level. If approved, Measure D would raise the city’s minimum wage from the state floor of $8.00 an hour to $10.00. San Francisco has a similar ordinance on the books, currently mandating hourly pay of at least $10.24.

The roots of the initiative go back to San Jose State University students, who were struggling to make ends meet. Elisha St. Laurent is a behavioral science major and the single mom of a 5-year-old boy. She expects to graduate next June.

Alisha St. Laurent(left) signs a petition from Leila McCab (right) to raise San Jose's minimum wage at San Jose State. Photo by Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

“I work at an electronics store and we make minimum wage there. So it’s definitely not an easy thing being a part-time employee and then a full-time student,” she says.

But many businesses have lined up against the measure, and opponents say they’re ready to spend more than a million dollars to defeat it.

That campaign has brought together some surprising allies. John Hogan is CEO of TeenForce, a non-profit group that helps foster-youth and other minors acquire work experience. So you might think he’d be in favor of raising their pay.

“Yeah, it’s probably ironic that I’m running a youth jobs program and I might be against this — which I am,” he says.

Hogan calls Measure D the wrong solution to a real problem. Although he thinks the minimum wage should be higher, he doesn’t believe it should be a a city-by-city decision. And he says it will create more obstacles for the kids his organization helps. Continue reading