Students should learn from San Jose initiative

In the fall semester of 2010, a San Jose State University sociology class created an idea to benefit their community: to raise the city’s minimum wage.

After gathering more than 40,000 signatures, the students’ proposal became Measure D, an official measure on the November ballot. The citizens of San Jose now have a chance to enact this significant legislation.

As USC students, we are uniquely positioned in a community that is also significantly affected by minimum-wage legislation.

The minimum wage has already been increased in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Santa Fe, N.M. — students should follow San Jose’s example and support and lobby for a similar measure in Los Angeles.

Measure D would increase San Jose’s minimum wage by 25 percent, from $8 to $10. With endorsements from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a host of California assembly members, it is entirely possible that the wage increase will be approved.

With a poverty rate of almost 20 percent, approximately 1 million children living under the poverty level and a minimum wage that puts those receiving it significantly below the estimated living wage, a minimum wage increase in Los Angeles would be a major benefit for millions of people.

This is not some far-off problem, either. A quick walk down Figueroa Street includes McDonald’s, Subway and many other companies that pay minimum wage. The campus center itself is home to Panda Express, Carl’s Jr. and California Pizza Kitchen. USC students interact with people who are being paid below the living wage every day.

The main argument against raising the minimum wage is that it will hurt small businesses. But according to a National Employment Law Project report, nearly 70 percent of businesses that pay their workers minimum wage have more than 100 employees — and many are large, international corporations.

Though a select number of people continue to benefit from the current minimum wage, they are far outnumbered by those who depend on it. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study reveals that nearly 75 million Americans hold minimum wage jobs. Few people realize, however, just how difficult it is to live on a minimum wage job.

While inflation continues to rise and the cost of living continues to expand, minimum wage has continued to stagnate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index inflation calculator, minimum wage is worth 30 percent less than it was in 1968, and if raised in accordance with inflation the current minimum wage would be $10.55 an hour. Though raising the minimum wage to $10 would still fall under this inflated rate, a person working 40 hours per week would be earning $320 more per month. An extra $320 per month for someone who is working on minimum wage and trying to support themselves or their family, however, would make a tremendous difference.

Raising the minimum wage in Los Angeles would also lead to a domino effect of benefits: A high number of increased salaries would spark increased spending that would, in turn, boost the local economy.

Increasing Los Angeles’ minimum wage is only one beneficial measure that could be taken by USC students, as numerous other issues currently impact the city and the area surrounding USC. Any of them could benefit immensely from student help.

Whether or not you agree with Measure D, it is undeniably extraordinary that a group of college students and a sociology professor took a class project and propelled it so far outside the classroom that it is now a referendum up for vote.

Not only is USC full of resources, connections and information that students should use to take action and spark change, it is located in a community that would especially benefit from this kind of student initiative.

Students should remember this, and hey — who knows, you might just change the law in a major American city.


Mat Goldstein is an undeclared sophomore.

6 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    An entry level job seeker should be focused on more than just what the initial pay is. They can not discount the skills they will gain. Increase your skills and increase value. Entry level employment is a stepping stone to higher wages and you get paid to be trained.

  2. Bob
    Bob says:

    You make some great points. But min wage jobs do one thing and this will take it away. That is to give a person with no skills there first job. Once you get skills you become more valuable hence you get raises. It’s called supply and demand. As a business owner I hire people with no skills at $8 a hour and also with skills and pay them more. If this Measure D passes I will no longer higher the no skills work crew as why pay someone with no skills at $10 when I can hire someone from San Carlos with a lot of skills at $10 a hour.
    This teacher who teaches at SJ state didn’t take that into effect. So this so called project is going to cost countless teens there first job and its just not GREEN. So parents fire up those SUVs as you will be driving your kids to San Carlos, Hollister, etc for there first job as you will find no one willing to pay a person with NO experience $10 a hour. WAY TO BE GREEN

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      I completely agree with you Bob. I too hire young workers with no work experience. As they gain skills, we raise their pay as we do not want to start over training someone new. They become valuable. Something that gets overlooked is also the fact that it costs money to train an unskilled worker.
      I am sure you experience the same as I, that when this person moves on with future employment, the skills they gain are of great benefit to them. In other words… they were paid to gain skills and training!

  3. Stacey Hendler Ross
    Stacey Hendler Ross says:

    Thank you for your well developed argument for raising the minimum wage and for supporting the effort to do so in San Jose. We consider your article a strong endorsement for Measure D and we’re delighted to have it . Thanks for spreading the effort to do the right thing for working families.

    • Bob
      Bob says:

      Hope you have good skill set Stacey as the first thing I’m going to do is let the worker go with a weak skill set at $8 a hour and hire a person from say in San Carlos making $9 since I have to now pay $10 a hour. I’m going to require a much higher skill set to flip my hamburgers. Not sure why no one comments on this put this Measure D takes being GREEN and puts it out on the curb. If your a kid looking for a first time job good luck as you won’t find one in San Jose. They will be given to people from the other cities with a better skill set. Again way to be GREEN.

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