Last night the Cities Association of Santa Clara County, which convenes the 15 cities in the heart of Silicon Valley, voted overwhelmingly in favor of making a $15 minimum wage the region-wide policy by 2019, setting a timeline three years faster than the one set by the State of California in April.
Though cities and states have taken action to raise minimum wages, Silicon Valley is the first to take a regional approach to setting such a standard. The vote to exceed the state’s wage floor in this high-cost region comes on the heels of a report showing that rents in San Jose – Silicon Valley’s largest city and the nation’s 10th largest – were third highest in the country, behind only New York and San Francisco.
If adopted by each city, this groundbreaking wage standard would give raises to 250,000 workers, putting $800 million more in their pockets each year and boosting the gross domestic product of the nine-county area by $314 million every year, according to a report by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.
While California’s Governor signed legislation in April to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, Silicon Valley continues to lead the fight for regional job standards – including higher minimum wages and increased access to work hours for part-time workers – that will allow working people to live with dignity in one of the highest cost regions in the country. San Jose raised its citywide minimum wage in 2012, kicking off a spate of municipal minimum wage increases across the country that, combined with the power of SEIU’s national Fight for $15, fueled recent victories in New York and California. The City Council in Mountain View, home to Google’s headquarters, voted in 2015 to raise that city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2018, and Sunnyvale City Council adopted the same standard in April 2016, building momentum towards last night’s vote.
The Cities Association’s resolution will now come for a vote at each City Council in the region. Palo Alto had already set a goal to reach $15 by 2018 like Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Cupertino and Los Altos voted last month in support of a regional $15 minimum wage by 2019. With 13 cities’ representatives having voted for the resolution, the accelerated $15 minimum wage appears poised to sweep across the Valley.
With one in three working households in Silicon Valley earning too little to cover even the most basic expenses, minimum wage is a key component in moving working families into the middle class, but it is only one piece of the solution. As the movement for creating fair and necessary workplace protections, such as sick leave and paid parental leave, continues to grow, access to work hours is the next step.