Unequal Wages Incite Frustration

Ilana Freeman, Staff Writer

Westfield Valley Fair Mall is currently struggling with balancing two separate minimum wages due to its division by two cities: Santa Clara and San Jose.

San Jose’s minimum wage has been raised to $10 an hour while Santa Clara’s has stayed stagnant at $8. For most, this wouldn’t appear to be much of a problem, but for both the workers and the employers at the mall, this has proven to cause a tremendous issue.

First of all, most of the workers on the Santa Clara side of the mall quit their positions to work on the side where they would be paid more money. This has caused a lack of employees on the Santa Clara side, which has led to a severe decrease in the quality of work. On the other hand, although San Jose side employees are earning more money, the businesses are losing profit, because they are forced to raise prices.

This leads to the second problem—consumers are spending more time on the Santa Clara side because prices are lower, which is causing people to have fewer opportunities to find jobs with the $10 minimum wage. This has caused frustration with workers; it isn’t fair for the other half of the workers to be paid $2 less to perform the exact same jobs, in the exact same location.

A possible solution suggested is to rotate jobs—people would spend half their time on the San Jose side and half their time on the Santa Clara side. The issue, however, is that constant rotation will decrease employee efficiency if people constantly need to readjust to new management styles. Furthermore, workers may not agree to spend half their working hours earning $8 knowing that they could make $10 elsewhere.

So why won’t the employers just agree to pay all employees $10, regardless of which half of the mall they work in? The simple answer is that in every business model, the goal is to cut costs as much as possible. In other words, every business is in a “race to the bottom”. If Santa Clara company owners don’t have to increase wages, then they have no incentive to do so. The workers might be sub par, but the businesses won’t be forced to raise prices, which will keep the workers competing with the better employees from the San Jose side.