San Jose City Council Backs Leno Effort to Raise State Minimum Wage

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San Jose City Council members hear from community activists on a statewide minimum wage bill.  (Beth Willon/KQED)

San Jose's City Council is the first in California to declare support for a state Senate bill raising the minimum wage throughout the state.

The council voted Tuesday after a lengthy debate on SB3, a measure by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that would raise the statewide minimum wage from the current $9 an hour to $13 by July 2017. The proposal would supersede local ordinances, such as San Jose's, that have wage rates lower than the proposed minimum.

The bill would allow cities to set higher minimum wages -- such as San Francisco's scheduled rise to $14 an hour in 2017.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said raising wages is the right thing to do in Silicon Valley, where the wage gap, particularly between service and tech workers, needs to be closed.

"We live in one valley but in two worlds," said Liccardo. "And we know many of our residents are not sharing in the growing prosperity of this valley."


Liccardo said he supports a statewide approach to raising the minimum wage rather than piecemeal efforts that have led a growing number of communities throughout the state to take action on their own.

Among them: San Jose, where voters adopted a higher minimum wage -- $10 an hour -- in 2012. The rate in the city is currently $10.30.

Oakland's higher wage, $12.25 an hour and also the product of a ballot measure, took effect earlier this month. Richmond and Berkeley have also raised their basic wage above the state minimum.

Liccardo is among six mayors across the state who last month issued a letter supporting SB3, along with Ed Lee of San Francisco, Libby Schaaf of Oakland, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Robert Garcia of Long Beach and Miguel Pulido of Santa Ana.

During the San Jose City Council debate, several community organizers commended Leno's attempts to raise the minimum-wage floor but said it isn't high enough with the cost of housing.

"It's nearly impossible today for many working families in San Jose to work hard and be able to live here," said Louis Rocha, a San Jose community organizer.

There was an unsuccessful attempt by City Councilman Johnny Khamis to include exemptions to the minimum-wage increase.

The council voted 7-2 to support SB3, with two members not voting.