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San Jose moves toward minimum wage bump

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to conduct a study that may lead to a regional minimum wage in Santa Clara County.

City staff will seek an outside, independent firm to create a study that will look at the impacts of a minimum wage at $15 and another higher amount to be determined by city staff, who will select the group to conduct the research.

City staff will first need to develop a draft for a request for proposals and select a firm with the help of the South Bay Labor Council and San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier this month, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced a plan for a regional minimum wage supported by mayors in Campbell, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Monte Sereno and Santa Clara.

The Cities Association of Santa Clara County board of directors, which is comprised of leaders representing the interests of the county’s 15 cities, voted in support of the study by a 10-0 vote during its meeting last week.

Councilman Chappie Jones is on the board representing San Jose.

Cupertino Mayor Rod Sinks will represent the association in choosing the outside consultant, city officials said.

Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio had asked for other minimum wage rates of $20, $22 and $25 to be included in the study but Economic Development Director and deputy city manager Kim Walesh said the added amounts would make it more expensive to conduct the study.

A higher amount would help workers pay for basic needs like housing, which has become increasingly difficult to afford, Oliverio said.

City Councilman Johnny Khamis also asked the study to include the effects of a minimum wage raise for workers who benefit from government-backed programs such as CalFresh and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Khamis cited an example of a person he knows who got a $1 increase to her hourly wage, leading to an additional $160 in monthly income, but saw a $300 cut in her monthly food benefits.

After acknowledging Khamis’ anecdote, Councilman Ash Kalra pointed out that the aim is to have people earn more money and reduce government assistance.

Khamis agreed with Kalra’s point but said the “intention is to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind.” The study would also look into a “training wage” for workers under 18 years old that would be lower than the minimum wage.

Kalra said the study should also look at the effects of having two separate classes within the minimum wage category.

Many minimum wage earners are women in their mid-30s or older supporting a family or spouse, according to Kalra.

The city’s minimum wage is currently set at $10.30, which is also the same rate in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

Last month, the Palo Alto and Santa Clara city councils approved raising their minimum wages to $11. That will go into effect next year.

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