The Opportunity to Work campaign continues to build momentum. Workers, clergy and community leaders gathered at San Jose City Hall yesterday morning to turn in 11 boxes of petitions to put the Opportunity to Work Initiative on the November ballot in the nation’s tenth largest city.
This moment represents a major milestone in the campaign for this initiative – the first of its kind in the country – which would help part-time workers get access to more work hours so that their paychecks can cover the bills and put food on the table. The Opportunity to Work Initiative would require large businesses in San Jose to offer more work hours to their current workers before hiring new staff.
Silicon Valley is facing a crisis of underemployment. A report by Working Partnerships USA and the Center for Popular Democracy, just published a few days ago, shows that part-time work has skyrocketed here in the last decade. With 77 percent of part-time workers earning under $15 per hour and 45 percent in low-income households, jobs that don’t offer enough work hours to live on are a major factor in our region’s growing inequality.
Standing over the boxes of nearly 35,000 signatures from Opportunity to Work supporters, Dilsa Gonzalez shared her story for the first time to a crowd. Even though she has been working at McDonald’s for 15 years and got promoted to manager, she often only gets 12 hours a week of work. Earning $10.65 an hour, Dilsa can’t get by.
She asks for more hours but is told that there aren’t any, even though the restaurant keeps hiring new employees. She shares a house with nine people and asks her friends and neighbors for bottles and cans so she can sell those to help make ends meet. Dilsa and the other 64,000 part-time workers in San Jose deserve better.
Movements for good jobs are leading major change for working people as $15 minimum wage laws help wages start to catch up with what a family needs to earn in today’s economy. But even with wages rising, workers like Dilsa can’t survive on only 12 hours a week.
We’ve cleared the first big hurdle, but we’ve got a bigger fight ahead. We’ve got to get on the ballot and then build a movement of hundreds of thousands of voters for the Opportunity to Work.