San Jose's minimum wage increase to $10 an hour takes effect Monday, but some businesses are already seeing positive results by bumping employees early.
Pizza My Heart, a San Jose institution, gave its lowest-wage employees a raise to $10 an hour just weeks after Measure D passed in the November 2012 election. Owner Chuck Hammers says he sees happier employees and a higher quality of job applicants than ever before. The best employees from his restaurants in other cities clamor to work in San Jose.
The minimum wage initiative supported by a broad coalition of labor, nonprofits, community groups and students was passed by a strong majority of San Jose voters -- 59 percent. Now that the measure is set to go into effect, the San Jose business community is partnering with the coalition in a campaign to highlight the many reasons to shop and dine in San Jose.
Increasingly, consumers are taking ethical considerations into account when they shop. We believe the higher wage can be a selling point for San Jose businesses. We want to make sure customers know that businesses in San Jose will have the same great products with an even better standard of service.
In the coming days, look for the slogan, "Earn 'n' Spend in San Jose" to guide you to restaurants and shops that pay their minimum wage employees a higher rate than anywhere else in Silicon Valley. These are businesses the community ought to be aware of and support.
There's already a buzz among workers in surrounding communities who want jobs in San Jose. When employees feel valued, they are more productive and more dependable, resulting in a higher quality of service and lower turnover costs.
Hammers is happy with his decision to raise wages months ahead of the law's start. His business is trending up, so he's considering raising the wages of his employees in other cities where it's not even required. He is an example of a business owner who is doing well by acting responsibly.
The minimum wage increase will stimulate the local economy to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Economic analysis of the $2 increase shows that San Jose will gain an additional $70 million a year in consumer spending as workers put their extra income back into local businesses.
The higher wages will also make these workers less dependent on government programs and charity. Organizations like Sacred Heart Community Service and United Way of Silicon Valley rallied behind the wage increase because many of their clients are minimum wage earners who cannot make ends meet without their help.
Efforts to raise the minimum wage are gaining momentum across the country. While San Jose is leading the pack in Silicon Valley, President Barack Obama proposed a federal minimum wage increase last month in his State of the Union address.
We know consumers in the valley have a wide choice of dining and shopping, and there is a growing awareness that creating happier, healthier, more prosperous communities is well worth the investment. So spend in San Jose, where workers earn a higher wage. It's the right thing to do.
Ben Field is executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Scott Knies is executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. They wrote this for this newspaper.