Silicon Valley’s minimum wage success story | AJ America

Amy Dean writes for Al Jazeera America about the impact of increasing the minimum wage in San Jose, Calif.:

From 1994 to 2003, I was the president of the South Bay Labor Council, the federation of labor unions in Silicon Valley. In 1998 we led a push for the San Jose City Council to pass a measure to establish for projects receiving public funds what was then the highest minimum wage in the country. At the time, a living wage was a new idea, an innovative way for localities to help low-income workers after the labor setbacks of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush years.

After a significant push by union members, the San Jose City Council passed the living wage ordinance, raising the minimum hourly wage on projects that received public support to $9.50 with benefits and $10.75 without, at a time when the federal minimum wage was only $5.15 an hour.

After the measure passed, what did we see? Rather than wilt, business over the next three years continued growing at a breakneck pace. Employment has surpassed prerecession levels, with more than 46,000 jobs added to the regional economy in 2013. Unemployment for the region at the beginning of this year was 5.8 percent, lower than in most of the rest of the country.

Read the entire opinion piece from Al Jazeera America.