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National Leader Champions Inspiring Young Activists

Liz Shuler addresses activists in San Jose, Calif., who are working to increase the city's minimum wage.

Stacey Hendler Ross, communications director of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, sends us this

Through rap, “spoken-word” poetry and music, one strong message permeated a room full of supporters for a November ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in San Jose, Calif.: “It’s time for $10.” The event, held at IBEW Local 332 featured AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler who flew in from Washington, D.C., to throw her support behind the campaign. Shuler's labor roots are with IBEW Local 125 in Oregon.

Shuler offered her unwavering endorsement of the minimum wage increase as she lauded the group of young activists who launched the effort to create an ordinance mandating a $10 an hour minimum wage in San Jose. The current California state minimum is $8.

“What you’re doing here in raising the minimum wage is going to help so many people,” Shuler said.  

It’s heartening for me to see not only so many labor activists coming together, but you’re actually leading the charge. You’re inspiring the labor movement in this instance and our community partners who might not have taken this fight on if it weren’t for you.

An increase in the city’s minimum wage would directly affect 41,000 people in low-wage jobs, pumping an estimated $71 million into the local economy, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The idea that was launched by a San Jose State University sociology class has drawn the support of hundreds from community groups, businesses, elected officials and individuals.  The wage increase would make San Jose only the fifth city in America with a city-wide minimum wage.

Labor Council Executive Officer Cindy Chavez hosted the event, which included a rap song about the minimum wage issue composed by young community activists from “Silicon Valley De-Bug”, a media, community organizing and entrepreneurial collective based in San Jose.  Social justice advocate Adriana Garcia performed a spoken word piece decrying the treatment and opportunities for low wage workers in the community.

One theme both Chavez and Shuler touched on was the misrepresentation of the issue expected from opponents of the wage increase.  The San Jose Silicon Valley of Commerce is reportedly planning to spend $1.5 million on a campaign to defeat the measure, arguing it will cause job loss and deter businesses from opening in San Jose.

“In fact,” said Chavez, “research shows wage increases are good for the economy.  People will spend their newly earned money locally and businesses will be better off for it.”

Shuler said:

You’ve got to be the truth squad and get out the facts.

Volunteer opportunities for the truth squad can be found at and  Phone banks for the minimum wage issue are conducted Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30-8:30 and precinct walks begin at 9 a.m., August 25 at the Santa Clara Valley Labor Center, 2102 Almaden Road, San Jose.

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Liz Shuler
minimum wage
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