The Offline Wage Wars of Silicon Valley

A Fight for Better Pay in Big Tech’s Backyard

Story by Nona Willis Aronowitz

Photography by Darcy Padilla

Published on Aug 12, 2013

Last November, the residents of San Jose voted for Measure D, which increased the California city’s minimum wage from $8 to $10 per hour. This 25 percent jump was the largest single minimum wage hike in U.S. history, and it all began with a group of six students, sitting in a classroom at San Jose State University, learning about social action and taking cues from nearby San Francisco, which had successfully raised its own minimum wage back in 2003 and never met the economic gloom that many critics at the time had predicted. This small yet significant struggle, however, went essentially unnoticed by the biggest industry in the Bay Area. While San Jose isn’t hip enough to house many start-ups, it is home to some of the Silicon Valley’s bigger tech companies like Adobe and eBay. The disconnect between these lucrative New Economy businesses and the travails of the city’s 70,000 low wage workers in their shadows speaks to a broader problem: A massive income disparity that’s been widening for 10 years all over the Bay Area. Journalist Nona Willis Aronowitz explores the people and policies shaping the economic future of a city that many others are looking to as a model for economic justice.