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Campaign to raise MV's minimum wage heats up

Local activists are organizing residents to speak to the City Council on Tuesday, April 22, in an effort to have the city's minimum wage increased.

Organizers of the effort are pointing to San Jose's success in raising its minimum wage from the state's $8 an hour to $10.15 an hour, and want Mountain View to follow suit, possibly going even higher.

"Silicon Valley has the highest per-capita number of millionaires and billionaires," said campaign organizer Meghan Fraley. "With that kind of economic situation we can afford to have a community where people who work hard are able to support themselves and have a fair shot. We all know that housing prices are skyrocketing and it's becoming more difficult for low-wage families to afford living here."

Fraley says the group wants the council to approve a minimum-wage increase, or at the very least put the question on the November ballot for voters to decide. The group is circulating a petition asking the council to "implement San Jose's successful model with a wage equal or higher than $10.15, index the wage to the cost of living, and implement the increase by January 1st, 2015."

Considering the rents they have to pay, "people who make minimum wage have to struggle, myself included," said Mountain View resident Guadalupe Garcia, who works at Mountain View's Posh Bagel. "We have to live with other family members or have roommates. Right now I live with family members. They pay a lot of the rent. If it wasn't for them I would have to move out of Mountain View."

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who supports the campaign, has said she'd like to see the minimum wage go to $15 an hour.

"There are a plurality of perspectives ranging from $10.15 to $15 an hour," Fraley said. "Some feel strongly $10.15 is not enough."

California's minimum wage will rise to $9 an hour in July and $10 in January, 2016, thanks to a bill signed into law late last year. But Fraley says that's "not enough for Mountain View; people just aren't getting by."

The owner of Mountain View's Pizza My Heart, Chuck Hammers, says he supports the increase after seeing how it seemed to help his five stores in San Jose, where he raised prices by 4 percent to cover San Jose's $2 wage increase. Sales at his San Jose locations are up 10 percent since then, and he saw that the increased pay reduced employee turnover and attracted employee transfers.

"There was a lot of bluster that higher wages meant the sky was falling. I stepped back and realized that as long as it is an even playing field, it's not going to affect us," Hammers recently told the Wall Street Journal, a statement he said he still felt to be adequate in an email to the Voice.

Philz Coffee has also supported San Jose's wage increase, while Starbucks has requested an exception from it.

The California Restaurant Association has opposed the increase in San Jose. It funded a survey of 163 San Jose restaurants, which it selected, that reportedly found that two-thirds raised prices to compensate for the increase, 42 percent cut jobs, and 45 percent cut employee hours. Other reports have suggested that restaurants near the edge of the city would struggle the most to absorb an increase if nearby restaurants in neighboring cities do not also have to implement a similar minimum-wage increase.

If Mountain View's minimum wage is to be higher than San Jose's it would compensate for the city's relatively expensive housing. Mountain View's median rent in 2013 was $2,239, compared with $2,062 for Santa Clara County, according to a city housing element report released this week. Working 40 hours a week on the current minimum wage will earn you $1,280 a month before taxes. That rises to $1,600 at $10 an hour.

"One thing that we're really advocating for is to have the minimum wage indexed to the cost of living," Fraley said. "We shouldn't have to do more campaigns just to keep the minimum wage at the same level, really."

The April 22 council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall at 500 Castro St.

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