Mountain View OKs $10.30 minimum wage

Council's goal is to raise wage to $15 by 2018

In a dramatic meeting Thursday evening, Mountain View's City Council approved a new minimum wage law based on San Jose's, increasing the city's minimum wage to $10.30 an hour starting July 1, 2015, and made it a goal to hit $15 an hour by 2018.

The council chambers was packed with people pushing the council to adopt a higher wage than San Jose's. There were few opponents - developer Don Bahl told the council not to be "touchy feely" and sympathize too much with the stories of the city's working poor, and representatives of two downtown restaurants, including Xahn, expressed concerns about being able to make a profit unless tipped employees were exempted.

Over 50 people attended a rally to "raise the wage" before the meeting in Civic Center plaza, and nearly everyone in the crowded room stood up when asked if they supported a higher wage, some holding signs saying "We stand with you."

Despite the unusually large amount of support for a wage approaching $15 an hour, council members were hesitant to go above the $10.30 the San Jose's wage is expected to hit next year.

"I'm willing to go beyond what San Jose has done but it's important we do it in a fair and prudent manner," said Mayor Chris Clark, who pointed out that the city had conducted only one outreach meeting and needed to reach out to more businesses. "The right way is to build a coalition like Mayor Murray did" in Seattle, which has approved a complex $15-an-hour ordinance. "I see us taking the first step and saying, 'We're willing to help lead on this.'"

Clark said he thinks there's a desire for similar ordinances in neighboring cities.

Council members first indicated their interest in raising the wage on May 2, with members John Inks and John McAlister opposed.

McAlister owns Mountain View's Baskin Robbins, which isn't a conflict of interest, according to City Attorney Jannie Quinn, though some residents clearly felt otherwise and shouted at him, "Recuse yourself."

Members voted 6-1 in favor of the increase to $10.30, with the goal of working towards $15 an hour in 2018 in collaboration with local businesses and other cities.

Council member Mike Kasperzak suggested a name for the effort:"$15 by '18."

Member John Inks was opposed to both the increase and moving towards $15 an hour, claiming that most people work minimum wage jobs only temporarily.

Under the new law, the city's minimum wage would increase every January 1 based on inflation. The amount of the raise will be announced every October.

When it was clear that the council wasn't going to do more than copy San Jose's minimum wage law, many people appeared to leave the meeting in protest, or at least, frustration. One audience member told the council they were acting out of fear.

"I can't afford to live on what I'm making now -- right now, I'm homeless," said Mountain View Walmart employee Pam Ramos during the rally. She said many of her coworkers are on food stamps and work two jobs.

Other workers who spoke included Posh Bagel employee Guadalupe Garcia, who said she works three $12 an hour jobs and still can't afford rent in Mountain View, and Google janitor Braulia Flores, a who said her fellow janitors start at $11 an hour, which is "very, very low to work at company so wealthy."

"The reality is that there is a new norm," said Scott Myers Lipton, the San Jose State University sociology instructor whose class proposed the San Jose's minimum wage law. "Ten dollars was great when few were advocating for a minimum wage increase. Today, people are zooming passed San Jose. I humbly ask you to do so as well. Matching San Jose is not visionary, matching Richmond or Seattle is."

There was no support on the council for a motion by member Margaret Abe-Koga to automatically increase the minimum wage by $1 a year so as to reach $15 by 2019. That would have bumped up annual pay for a full-time worker by about $10,000 a year, going from $20,800 a year before taxes (at $10 an hour, 40 hours a week) to $31,200 (at $15 an hour).

The council instead approved a motion proposed by City Manager Dan Rich, to "make it a goal of the City Council to get to a $15 an hour minimum wage by the year 2018, working in cooperation with our neighboring cities and regional organizations as well as get input from the community, and staff will return to council no later than April on where the issue is regionally an get direction on how to proceed," Rich said.

It was noted by city staff and council members that Sunnyale's City Council is voting on a wage increase on Oct. 14 and that 13 of 15 Palo Alto City Council candidates support a higher minimum wage in Palo Alto.

"I hope they move forward quickly because this is what people want," said campaign organizer Meghan Fraley after the meeting. "This is as close to consensus as it gets on any political issue."

The lack of opposition to the wage increase has been unusual for something with such wide impacts. The city's plastic bag ban drew many more opponents to city meetings. During a public input meeting on the proposed ordinance, no one spoke against it. The California Restaurant Association's Javier Gonzalez spoke against the raise to $10.30 on Thursday, noting that the state has already approved a 25 percent raise of the old $8 minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2016. He said the raise would cause "a very challenging wage compression between the front end and back of the house," for restaurants, hinting that it would drive up wages for other restaurant employees, not just wait staff on minimum wage.

Advocates had said they hoped the lack of opposition was due to reports that San Jose's economy, and downtown restaurant industry, has been thriving since its 2012 increase to $10 an hour.

Council member Mike Kasperzak said he didn't want a "hodge-podge" of different wage ordinances in various cities. He asked Ken Jacobs, chair of U.C. Berkeley's Center for Labor research and education, to describe the best method for solving "pragmatic issues" of a small business owner who does work in several different cities in the county. Jacobs described the situation at Valley Fair mall in San Jose where most of the mall is in San Jose and a small part is in Santa Clara, which didn't raise the minimum wage. "Employers who didn't raise the wage started losing workers," Jacobs said, adding that those employers had to provide some other benefits to retain workers. He said when one city raises its minimum wage it causes a "race to the top" between cities and employers. He said it was similar to how cities impose different taxes on businesses. "Cities do this on daily basis on a wide range of regulations. The best outcome would be if cities get together and move in the same direction."

Jacobs also noted that workers who make just above minimum wage will also benefit from the increase. "People right at and above the minimum wage also tend to get a raise to maintain some wage differential," Jacobs said.

Leaders of Mountain View non-profits also spoke in favor of significant wage raise: Tom Myers of the Community Services Agency and Monique Kane of the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC). CHAC provides free and low cost counseling to residents.

"The children of the working poor in Mountain View suffer a great deal emotionally," Kane said. Because parents are working multiple jobs to pay escalating rents, children "are lonely, they are depressed. It probably takes away a child's chance to be with their parents, and they miss out on the positive role models they could have. Kids are ostracized socially, which make them depressed even more. Many do not have computers, or their families can't afford the Internet, and they don't have transportation to the library. The parents care that they do well but they have no time to help because they are working all the time. Children are raising children in our community. A child sleeps on the living room floor and mom has four roommates. The TV is on until late. Is it any wonder this child comes to school exhausted? There's a lot of poverty and it's really hurting out children. I hope you can lead and go to $15 an hour."

The California Apartment Association's opposition to rent control makes it an unusual ally to the working poor, but on Thursday CAA's Joshua Howard supported the increase. He recalled the experience of one of the landlords he represents when San Jose passed its wage increase. "He could tell difference in his residents' quality of life and their outlook on life, they would pay rent on the first of the month. If it worked in San Jose, it will work here as well. We don't oppose the idea of raising the minimum wage. Ideally, we don't have piecemeal legislation (in different cities).

"What better way to help so many so quickly in our entire city and than raising the minimum wage?" said Mike Fischetti, one of several residents to say a significant increase to the minimum age was a moral obligation of the council. He called the council's move towards $15 an hour a "great victory."

"I hear stories of people who can barely pay the rent of buy food," said Foothill-DeAnza Community College District board member Laura Casas. "I would like our working people to get bonuses like the ones my husband used to get just for doing math correctly. They need to be part of the economy. If you put that extra money in their pocket, they are going to help the economy in the long run, that is capitalism."

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3 people like this
Posted by AC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I'm sure the this has nothing to do with raising labor costs.

Wal-Mart Stores cutting health insurance for part-time workers and raising premiums for its other employees.

10 people like this
Posted by JeffM
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

"Member John Inks was opposed to both the increase and moving towards $15 an hour, claiming that most people work minimum wage jobs only temporarily."

Did he actually say this? We are not talking primarily about summer/after school jobs for teens, or people who have clear upward mobility. Get out more.

4 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

It's an easy task to see how many children are both dropped off and picked up by a parent--not a child-- at any of the elementary schools. Even the "lower income" school like Castro Elementary.

7 people like this
Posted by mel
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:57 pm

minimum wage jobs used to be 'entry' jobs followed by better salaried jobs with education and training and promotion

not now ----now they are the norm

if you believe they are 'entry' jobs then you do not see all those in their 40's and 50's and 60's working minimum wage

as the gentleman said above -- 'get out more"

7 people like this
Posted by Bumper
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Oct 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm

I support workers getting decent wages and I am not sure if that means a livable wage in Mountain View or Atherton or Gilroy or Los Banos,etc...because Subway and many other mom/pop small businesses can't afford to pay $15 an hour and still make a decent profit for their own existence in Silicon Valley. Workers and all these crooked socialists and liberals don't seem to understand this. Raising the minimum wages will impact the same workers in a very negative way that they want to help. Not every business is a Walmart and Walmart can't pay $15 in Mountain View and pay a different wage in San Jose, because that is not how their business model works. Forcing businesses to pay substantially higher wages will force businesses to hire even cheaper undocumented workers because there are tons of them out there. I feel sorry for the Walmart workers and their conditions they have to work under and it is pathetic that Walmart is not paying them enough but local govts should intervene in private matters unless it is criminal.

5 people like this
Posted by Glenn Meier
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Oct 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm

This will make it harder for teenagers to get a job while going to school. They are being forced out of the labor market by older people who use the pay to live on.

8 people like this
Posted by Jessica Williams
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Kudos to the Council. For all those on the fence on this issue (though the vast majority is in support), I recommend looking into the research of Michael Reich and Ken Jacobs up in Berkeley to get an educated sense of the impact of raises in the minimum wage. Much of what you see in the comments section here, or in Republican talking points are not based in research but ideology.

Thank you to Council! It is truly what the majority of Mountain View wants, the country wants, and hardworking families and their children need.

4 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of North Bayshore
on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:26 pm

It may be not be illegal for John McAlister to vote, but it is certainly unethical. He was directly impacted by the vote.

Maybe if people have a few more dollars in their pockets, they could take their families out for an ice cream once in a while.

And what planet does John Inks live on?

The man that told the council not listen to these emotional stories about living on minimum wage, and then proceeded to tell an emotional story about his daughter, was a study in hypocrisy.

4 people like this
Posted by an old Mountain View Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:32 pm

@Glenn Meier,

Glenn, maybe you should talk to John Inks.
Here is what the Voice said about this:

"Member John Inks was opposed to both the increase and moving towards $15 an hour, claiming that most people work minimum wage jobs only temporarily."

6 people like this
Posted by AC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

So we waste all this time and effort to get $10.30 when CA will make it $10 in Jan 5 moths later. Talk about political crap in an election year.

Effective January 1, 2008, the minimum wage in California is $8.00 per hour. It will increase to $9.00 per hour effective July 1, 2014, and to $10.00 per hour effective January 1, 2016.

6 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

What a load of nonsense.

I'm against the minimum wage in any form.

But I'm even more against half measures meant to do nothing but get votes.

You want someone to be able to actually live on what they make in Mountain View? Raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour.

$10.30 isn't even symbolic. It's just pandering.

The only real effect this will have is increasing the cost of doing business in Mountain View compared to neighboring cities. And that's a good thing how?

4 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

It does stink of grandstanding when it only comes into play 6 mo before it goes up to $10 anyway.

Like Sunnyvale's magazine/ammunition many gun deaths there since they passed that law vs Mt View...?

4 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2014 at 7:03 am

Well spoken, Otto Maddox!
If we want to make any kind of measurable impact, we need to make a change large enough to show up statistically. Anything less is a farce, just a stupid, hollow gesture. Let's make it $20/hr, then we could show some clear results.
Any guess how fast a Baskin-Robbins would be out of business at that labor cost? I'll bet McAlister could tell us to the day.

4 people like this
Posted by JO
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I also agree with you Otto Maddox. If these MW proponents were really principled and truly interested in helping low income people, they should support a true living wage of at least $25/hour. As it is, it look like pandering to special interests groups by the council so they can say they did something

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Agreed, the $10.30 is total political pandering. Does anyone know what Mountain View Walmart's actual wages are for employees? I'd be surprised if this makes a difference even at that scapegoat for underpaying employees.

A real, meaningful minimum wage increase, on the other hand, would have an effect. If you're interested, read about what's happening in Germany right now after instituting a minimum wage. They had free market wages until recently, when they implemented an 8.50 euro, or about $10.75 minimum wage. Hundreds of thousands losing their jobs, the costs of goods going up, especially things like taxis which are going up 50-70% depending on city (Web Link). Some people are getting paid more, many people are getting laid off, and all people are seeing prices go up.

4 people like this
Posted by JO
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 15, 2014 at 8:31 am

and BTW, the two workers quoted in the article were already earning above the MW instituted by the city. How is this going to help them?

3 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

Yeah, this is total political pandering. Just because most of the voters want it raised, why do it? Uhhh....

$10.30 will not allow people to afford a million dollar home, so we should do nothing. If that is the case, then we should close hospitals, because not every patient will be successfully healed there. Uhhh....

The only real effect this will have is increasing the cost of doing business in Mountain View compared to neighboring cities. Well, sunnyvale and palo alto will also be increasing the minimum wage, so what neighboring city are you referring to? Los Altos? Oh, yes..SO MANY people work there... Uhhh....

4 people like this
Posted by Kitty
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Even Google isn't paying some of their full time employees anything close to $25 per hour. You'd think they would want to keep their staff close to work, but its cheaper to just give them a free bus ride to and from San Jose, because they can't afford to live closer.

3 people like this
Posted by Randall
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:55 pm

The people working for the minimum wag were not pandering but trying to get the best possible results in spite of the pandering to the business community by the city council. They are still pressuring the city to raise the minimum wage to $15. It would be nice to demand a $25 dollar increase but that is unrealistic short of revolution. There are all kinds of findings that a higher minimum wage does not increase unemployment. Maybe business especially Walmart, but even small business should consider a smaller profit to give workers a higher wage.

3 people like this
Posted by @ Glenn Meier
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 8:58 am

Is that sarcasm? I took it as sarcasm originally, but then I thought may it was an earnest comment.

3 people like this
Posted by I'm not an economist
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Most studies do show an impact on youth employment. The overall unemployment rate is irrelevant. Also, who pays for the minimum wage. A recent Stanford study showed that higher prices for goods consumed by low skilled workers more than offset the raise in wages received by those luck enough to keep their jobs. The SF Chronicle has published some recent examples of firms shutting down and leaving SF because of higher MW's.

3 people like this
Posted by Zee Kay
a resident of Castro City
on May 20, 2015 at 7:10 pm

The city and state need to provide subsidized rents and health care to help people and not put the burden on small mom and pop shops. This will cause small businesses to close down. Only large business with buying power will survive or business who can automate their processes thus reducing their labor cost. CA or Mountain View doesn't support small businesses only giants like Linkedin and Google. Soon all you will see are CVS and Walmarts and Togo's or Chipotle. All small players will get weeded out leaving very little diversity and options.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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