ABC: Low wage jobs come to possible tipping point in San Jose

By David Louie

March 16, 2018

Pieology abruptly closed three of its pizzerias in San Jose, but its corporate office in Southern California isn't confirming reports that it was due to a staffing shortage. However, difficulty filling low-wage jobs is becoming a trend in the red-hot job market in Silicon Valley.

Linda Kane Neufeld is CEO of Express Employment, a San Jose based staffing agency. "It can take us maybe two to three weeks to fill somebody with a qualified employee," she said. It used to take 24 hours.

She told ABC7 News that jobs paying San Jose's $13.50 an hour minimum wage can go unfilled until employers are willing to pay $15 or higher. Even if they take a low-wage job, they'll quit when offered more money. She knows of people who have quit when offered 25 to 50 cents more an hour.

The reason is simple: The cost of living in Silicon Valley.

Jamie Underwood is going back to work after having a child. And she's getting paid more than she anticipated. "I definitely exceeded my expectations," she said. "I thought that I'd be starting out at maybe $13 or $15, and they got me up to $17."

Fast-rising rent due to a housing shortage and higher wages are linked.

Ben Field is the executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council. "Those two things have to go together," he said. "If we just solve the income side, providing more good quality jobs but housing continues to escalate in cost faster than wages, we haven't solved the problem."

The issue of wages also trickles down to the consumer level. Customers who go to stores or restaurants where they've cut back on staffing or can't fill positions will find service slower.