Let’s put politics aside for a moment and pretend the minimum wage is not a party-centric issue. Let’s look at it from a pragmatic perspective if possible.
Raising the minimum wage in Silicon Valley (beyond San Jose which has already done so) is a very important and rational thing to do for the economic health of the valley, California, and the USA economy as a whole. I’m sure a lot could be written about the class warfare aspect of this, but to me, the innovation guy, that’s not the key issue. The issue is continuing the incredible innovation that happens in Silicon Valley.
As of March 2014 it’s 87% more expensive to live in Silicon Valley than the USA average. That’s bad news not just for Silicon Valley, and those folks squeaking by, but for innovation in America in general.
Can we agree that Silicon Valley has been the cradle of American Innovation for at least 30 years? Where would we be without it? It’s one huge incubator for innovation and it’s a beautiful thing.
Why does the minimum wage matter in keeping Silicon Valley the innovation capital of the world? Because young, brilliant, but under-resourced people can’t afford to live in Silicon Valley anymore. Raising the minimum wage would make it possible for people of modest means to live there and potentially start a great new innovative business. Or are we willing to to shut the door to those people on the margins hanging on by their fingernails — waiting tables, pouring espresso drinks and working at the country club — and hope those hired to come to the valley to work for established companies will re-create the magic?
Don’t we want to leave the door open to the possibility of “the cinderella boy from outta nowhere?” Like some guy who didn’t even graduate from college like Steve Jobs (his first job was a low-wage summer job at HP). Don’t we want the little school from Hickory, Indiana to win the state championship? (Sorry for the Hoosiers reference). You know — the people who aren’t supposed to win but somehow find a way? Let’s face it, the deck is stacked against people in the margins, a rise in the minimum wage keeps them in Silicon Valley, keeps them in the game. Yes, they could go elsewhere and innovate, but the supporting infrastructure of Silicon Valley for innovation makes it more possible they might succeed. As much as I’d like Three Oaks, Michigan to be an innovation center, its got a long way to go. There are simply more creative possibilities in Silicon Valley, more dots to connect.
You might say that the new start-up kings and queens will still happen in Silicon Valley because of the lovely supporting structures like Stanford University and the various incubators and venture funds. Granted, lots of innovation will happen there whether they raise the mimimum wage or not. But they’ll miss some big opportunities if they don’t. Why? Because sometimes the most incredible innovations, start-ups, don’t get invented by already-middle-class people. Sometimes they get invented by young, brilliant people who might be one generation removed from the third world (or Mississippi). People who are a bit hungry for success. Can we not forget that many of the foundational inventions of Silicon Valley came from don’t-have-a-dime eastern European, Indian, and Chinese immigrants? Because of the muddle around immigration in the USA we’re already losing talent to other countries. I’d personally like to see Silicon Valley open its doors to immigrants from distant lands like Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama — even Hoosiers from Indiana.
I’ve been made aware by my activist daughter, Meghan Fraley (who lives in Mountain View and is fighting for this wage rise with Politically Inspired Action) that there are other good reasons to raise the minimum wage in the valley. In essence, because it would be a stimulant for the regional economy. From her I’ve learned that San Jose, in the center of the region, raised it’s minimum wage from 8 to 10 dollars just over a year ago, and there are reports of:
- 9,000 new businesses in San Jose
- 4,000 new minimum wage jobs created year over year
- Unemployment has dropped by about 2%
That’s some strong evidence that raising the minimum wage throughout all the valley communities would make sense purely as an economic stimulant.
But I like my reason too. Let’s give that cinderella boy or girl from outta nowhere a chance to stay in the game — and create wealth and jobs for all of us. Let’s get behind raising the minimum wage in Silicon Valley.