South Bay officials consider regional minimum wage

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KTVU) -- From Palo Alto and Campbell to Santa Clara and San Jose, leaders from cities around Santa Clara County are joining forces to look at the idea of a regional minimum wage.

The hope would be to improve the lives of workers and to level the playing field for businesses that sit on the border of two towns.

Stevens Creek Boulevard is one such dividing line. Businesses on one side of the street sit in San Jose, where the minimum wage is $10.30 an hour.

On the other side, it's Santa Clara, where the going rate is $9 an hour.

"You just have to make the best of it," said Francisco Moreno, an employee at Premier Car Wash.

Premier Car Wash sits on the Santa Clara side and is under brand new ownership. The lower minimum wage here created an exodus of employees over the last year.

"Business ended up dropping 70-75 percent. That's the reason he finally gave up and we end up taking over the car wash. And now we realize what the problem is," said new manager Hamid Ahmadih.

And they're not alone. In fact, that same dividing line runs right through the Valley Fair Mall. That means employees in some stores make less than others.

"You run into a lot of people who just jump ship and have no loyalty because on the other side of the mall they can make this much more because minimum wage is different," said Nathan Saindon, who works at the mall.

Officials from eight cities in Santa Clara County are discussing the idea of a regional minimum wage and plan to conduct a study to see how it might work.

"What we're looking to do is at least start the process collaboratively and see is there room for us to move together," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

And though Santa Clara city officials say they're interested, they've already been taking steps on their own. The city is raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour come January 1st.

"The problem now is the ping pong effect. Now that we'll be higher than San Jose January 1st, they might have that problem in those shared market places," says Santa Clara City Council member Dominic Caserta.

At Premier Car Wash, that's creating even more confusion. The owners say a regional minimum wage sounds good to them.

"Hopefully they make the right decision and make it everywhere the same," said Ahmadih.

But for local businesses there's no quick resolution in sight. The study won't be completed until late this year or early next year. 

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