Asked if he can live on minimum wage right now, San Jose resident Jason Heriman told ABC7 News, "Right now, no. It's hard because I've got a son, so try to support him and $8 just ain't cuttin' it." Heriman stands on street corners three hours a day, seven days a week to drum up business for a pizzeria. At $8 an hour, he makes $168 a week.
If San Jose's Measure D passes, the minimum wage will take a 25 percent jump to$10 an hour. While it would help pay for rent and food, opponents warn that employers may simply cut hours or eliminate their jobs. Economist Chris Thornberg was hired to analyze the proposal by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. He says small and medium-sized businesses will be impacted the most.
"These are the folks who more or less rely on minimum wage workers. They will have to scale back operations and of course even as they scale back operations, as already noted, that means fewer jobs for minimum wage workers," he said.
Supporters of Measure D have also been pouring over economic studies that claim there are benefits for small and medium businesses when they pay higher than minimum wage. "They dramatically reduce turnover. People can't live on $8 an hour so what they do is they immediately churn. They look for another job and another job, which means companies have to continually recruit and train," said Bob Brownstein with Working Partnerships USA.
Measure D has lined up social service agencies and labor groups on one side against business owners and the mayor on the other. The city says auditing businesses to monitor compliance will cost San Jose an additional $600,000 a year it says it doesn't have. On the other hand, supporters say higher wages give workers more spending power that will benefit local businesses.
Voters will have to figure out those arguments and decide what's best for them and what's best for the workers, They'll go to the ballots November 6.