Bay Area class project leads to minimum wage jump
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.
SAN JOSE — If anyone deserves an A+ this week, it's a group of San Jose State University students who turned their Social Action class project into a successful campaign to boost the local minimum wage.
On Monday their activism paid off, as 70,000 workers in San Jose enjoyed the nation's largest minimum-wage increase, a 25 percent raise from $8 to $10 an hour.
Their teacher, sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton, said the achievement sends a message around the U.S. that "regular folks can change economic policy in this country."
Cindy Chavez, who heads the South Bay Labor Council representing more than 90 unions, said the increase is "an incredible boost to the local economy," noting full-time minimum wage workers in San Jose will now see a $4,000 annual bump in pay.
Nineteen states, including California, and many cities have raised their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25. Congress is currently considering the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015.
California's minimum wage is $8 an hour. San Francisco's $10.55 an hour local minimum wage took effect on Jan. 1.
The class project was initiated in 2011 by then-junior Marisela Castro, a daughter of farmworkers who was working part-time to pay for her education. She and fellow students were joined by a coalition of labor, non-profit, and community and business leaders who put the question to voters in November, 2012. More than 59 percent approved the measure.
Opponents say the minimum wage increase will cause employees to lose hours or even their jobs.
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