Measure D supporters rally for minimum wage rights

by and Oct 29, 2012 3:55 pm Tags: , , ,

Café J president Elisha St. Laurent (left) and treasurer Brooke Wayne read their letter to president and CEO of the San Jose Chamber of Commerce, Matt Mahood, about living with minimum wage pay. Photo by Julie Tran

Supporters of Measure D marched to the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Monday to deliver a letter  to Chamber president and CEO Matt Mahood, asking him to spend a week living on San Jose’s current minimum wage rate.

If Measure D is passed, it would raise San Jose’s minimum wage of $8 per hour to $10 per hour, which would be a 25 percent increase on the original minimum wage rate.

Elisha St. Laurent, a senior double majoring in behavioral sciences and sociology, is the president of Campus Alliance for Economic Justice, and she said she hopes to bring awareness to the issue of the minimum wage rate to Mahood.

“I am challenging Mahood to be able to live off $8 per hour in this community,” St. Laurent said. “He is against Measure D because he believes it would hurt small businesses but in reality, there’s no negative impact on them and it would increase spending in local areas.”

San Jose is currently the fourth most expensive place to live in the country, according to SJSU sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton.

According to St. Laurent, there were 31,000 signatures placed in support of Measure D, which will be discussed on the Nov. 6 ballot.

St. Laurent also added that the San Jose Chamber of Commerce raised $60,000 in protest of Measure D.

For Diana Crumedy, an SJSU alumna with a degree in sociology, the rally was a way to spread knowledge to the issue of affordable living in San Jose.

“There are 40,000 residents (in San Jose) who are making minimum wage, and it hasn’t risen since 2008,” Crumedy said. “The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and it’s only gone up three times in the span of 30 years.  Some people say that Congress should be responsible for raising the minimum wage, but it’s been 60 years of waiting (on them).”

Eight students showed up to the entrance of the Chamber of Commerce building, but Mahood wasn’t available to accept their letter.

Mahood responded to the opposition of Measure D in an email response, stating that it is a poorly written measure and will hurt entry level and low skilled workers and will cost the city more than $600,000 annually to enforce this new city law and will not be as successful as San Francisco's minimum wage increase has been.

"Small and medium sized businesses cannot absorb an immediate 25 percent increase, plus the payroll taxes that go up as well," Mahood said. " When San Francisco implemented their min wage increase, they exempted small businesses below 10 employees and phased it in. Measure D has no exemptions."

According to Mahood, a study by Christopher Thornberg at Beacon Economics states that Measure D could cost the city 3,100 jobs.

"If businesses only have so much to spend on payroll and the cost of an employee goes up 25 percent, they cut hours and jobs," Mahood said. "They just don't raise prices 25 percent."

Myers-Lipton came out in support of the rally and said he wanted to support the students who helped to develop this measure in his class two years ago.

“Why we are here today is because we want to say to the Chamber that $8 is not enough,” Myers-Lipton said. “The students have challenged that dramatically here saying ‘We make minimum wage, you try walking in our shoes for a week before the election.’”

Myers-Lipton goes on to say that the Chamber of Commerce has paid $11,000 for a study from the Restaurant Association to say that Measure D would have a negative effect on San Jose, but two major studies done by the economics department at University of California and the University of New Mexico show no job loss and no unemployment decrease.

“In fact, the city of Santa Fe has the lowest (job loss) in the whole state (of New Mexico) and San Francisco has the third lowest in the whole state,” Myers-Lipton said. “So you can’t say that it’s going to be a job killer when it actually shows that it helps the economy.”

Despite Mahood’s absence, Myers-Lipton considered the rally to be a success and will encourage voters to vote yes on Measure D.

“We are confident that the voters are going to say, just like they approved San Francisco, they are going to say yes because we have to have a community standard so people can pay for their food,” he said. “We are Americans, (and) we don’t want to be on government assistance. We want to provide for ourselves. So, let’s pave our way that allows us to live that American dream."

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