Same Jobs, Less Money. Why Wouldn’t San Jose Raise the Wage?

Having worked in both San Francisco, where minimum wage jobs pay $10.00 an hour, and in San Jose, where employers only have to pay $8.00 an hour, Anthony Mastracola shares his view on the impact the two dollar difference can make for youth and families.

Mo Money, Mo Problems? I don't know about that, but I can tell you No Money, Mo Problems. Options are becoming more and more limited for youth in America. Going to school seems to lead nowhere, jobs are scarce and if you can get one, they’re probably at minimum wage. Selling drugs has been the solution for many, and that route usually leads us to jail or the coffin. Being broke sucks, bottom line, and working a minimum wage job is barely a step up.

I have worked minimum wage in San Jose at $8.00 an hour, and San Francisco at $10.00 an hour – and the difference that amount makes means the world not just to young workers but older workers we are shoulder to shoulder with as well.

In San Francisco I worked at KFC/Taco Bell at minimum wage. In San Jose, I washed dishes in a cafe, pizza restaurant, sold bread at farmers markets, and made crepes in another café -- all at minimum wage.

When I compare my two week checks from my jobs in San Jose and San Francisco, the checks from SF were usually atleast $100 more when I ended up I working the equal amount of hours. In San Francisco, if my hourly wage was any lower, I wouldn’t have been able to pay rent. It was tight, but working in San Jose, doing the same type of jobs for less money, was even tougher. In fact, I basically had to work more hours just to match what I was making in San Francisco. Most of my coworkers worked every day and another job on top of that just to get by. I remember this one guy who worked two jobs everyday and he was always sick. One time I could tell he was in pain and was coughing and sneezing, but he kept on working because he needed the hours. I wondered if he would still be grinding, at the risk of his health, if he had a higher wage. At the same time when your at work all day you have to find a way to make it fun so it was common for us to be cracking jokes and goofing off.

Since I couldn’t meet all my living costs working minimum wage in San Jose, often times I had to rely on side hustles to compensate. And I wasn’t alone. In a time when jobs are scarce and wages are low, inner youth often turn to husltin’ -- selling drugs or whatever, both legal and illegal -- to make quick money.

But with an increase in wages people will be able to get that extra boost that can go a long way and stop them from looking into alternative options to make money.  

And the impact of only getting a $8.00 wage has an even more dramatic impact on a family versus a single person like myself.  And what people sometimes fail to realize, is that minimum wage jobs are sometimes the only option for many San Jose residents. The days of “climbing the ladder” at a company is long gone in many industries. So working long hours at sometimes multiple, tedious jobs and still barely being able to pay rent has become the new San Jose working experience.  This is why I support a raise in minimum wage.

As our city grows, so do living costs and while the white collar workers see ever-growing prosperity, the blue collar workers should see a reward too ­ we all make up Silicon Valley.  It makes no sense for our wages to stay the same while our living costs go up. All that does is create a bigger disparity between those with wealth and those in poverty. This is a much larger issue, and increasing minimum wage would be the least our city officials could do for us.

Anyone who has worked jobs at different wages can tell you about the difference a couple of dollars made in their lives.

This article is part of the categories: Business  / Community  / Economy 
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I understand that retail low wage jobs are the most available jobs but I wonder what keeps youths from going out and street vending? Non food business licenses aren't that expensive. If you're willing to sell drugs why aren't you willing to buy costco muffins and go sell them outside of venues late at night to the hungry weed heads for $2 a piece or more? Do you have any idea how much people will pay for nicely made custom wooden furniture? Like even just a simple small end table or shelf to hang on a wall. A lot!!! I'm curious why youth aren't taking a page from what is working for many in the global south and what worked for many youth during the 1960's. In the 1960's kids made and sold belts, candles, jewelry, posters, handmade leather bags, handmade paper stationary, clothing, cookies, zines, lamps, furniture, macromay plant holders, crocheted/knitted bags etc. It was a common sight to see these vendors at Bart stations, at street corners, cultural hubs and community events. We loved having these custom things even if they were cruder than what they sell at the malls. That's what made us cool and able to know who else was cool by sight. A man sporting a macromayed bag was cool. The guy in polyester was not. We did our own thing outside of the dominant paradigm. In Mexico City, Ghana West Africa and Guatamala I saw many people selling their art on the street. blank bandanas cost less than $1. Silk screen them with your design and you can sell them for $4-6. If you can buy an iphone, video games, pumped up kicks, a fixie, weed, booze, cable TV, etc. you can save enough bread pretty quick to venture capitalize your self into your own business. The Tech Shop makes this even easier than it was in the 1960's--You don't need to own or maintain equipment and you don't need to rent space to manufacture custom belt buckles and leather belts, wood products, sew leather, work with metal, or make custom bike accessories or parts. For $100 a month or so (cancel your cable, dawg) you can use Tech Shop. If time is on your hands you can scrounge for old wood and figure out ways to make stuff out of thrown away junk. Check Etsy out and see what folks sell their stuff for. You can join them. What's keeping you from doing this? My own theory is because your parents give you a home there's no fire under your butt to risk doing what's uncomfortable, unfamiliar and scarey. I'm not saying its easy but from where I sit it seems easier than slaving for the man once you get it going. LMK what's keeping you from trying something like this. Come to De-Bug and find me. I'd love to brainstorm with you and help you get something going like a De-Bug support group that figures out some stuff to make and hustle.

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