The Mercury News: Effort to freeze Mountain View’s minimum wage fails

By Kevin Kelly

December 5, 2018

Councilman McAlister sought to hold off on increase to $15.65 an hour in 2019 to better study impact to businesses

Mountain View’s minimum wage will rise to $15.65 beginning Jan.1 after an attempt to keep it at $15 until 2020 failed.

The increase, adjusted for inflation, is in line with Sunnyvale, which made the decision to move to $15.65 in September. The two cities, which moved to $15 an hour at the start of 2018, will continue to have the highest minimum wage in Santa Clara County next year.

Councilman John McAlister at Tuesday’s City Council meeting requested that the wage be kept at $15 for another year so the city could study the impacts of the planned wage increase on local small businesses. He said enacting the freeze would align with an approach sought by the Cities Association of Santa Clara County that all cities be at a $15 minimum wage in 2019.

“If we continue to go down this path, we will become an island,” McAlister said. “Let’s take a pause and make sure that everybody comes along.”

McAlister’s request didn’t receive support from any of the other members and it died before coming to a vote.

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga argued that stalling the inflation adjustment wouldn’t put Mountain View in line with a regional approach because seven cities aren’t yet on board. While San Jose, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Los Altos, Santa Clara and Milpitas are moving to $15 an hour in the new year, others such as Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Saratoga trail behind.

“If you want to talk about a regional approach, we should be looking to get those other seven cities to join us,” Abe-Koga said. “Either way, we’re still not at a regional approach, so I don’t think that argument works at this point in time. … Let’s encourage the other cities to come up with us in the future.”

Three members of the public spoke in favor of adjusting the wage upward at the meeting, stating that the freeze was being considered just four weeks before minimum wage-earners were expecting an increase that for a couple renting together in the city would amount to an additional $2,500 in 2019.

“We’ve got to help people keep their wages up to be able to afford to live here,” said Louise Auerhahn, of Working Partnerships USA.

Councilman Ken Rosenberg added that Mountain View’s high minimum wage next year will give small employers access to more potential employees.

“If there is a disparity between Palo Alto and Mountain view for minimum wage, that is a benefit for Mountain View businesses,” Rosenberg said.

From July 2015 — when Mountain View adopted the goal of hitting $15 an hour by 2018 — to the present, the minimum wage has increased by 47 percent.