Alumnus, World Renowned Sociologist Remembers Carrie Fisher

TO ALL THOSE WHO GREW UP WITH THE STAR WARS SERIES AND ARE TRYING TO COME TO GRIPS WITH YET ANOTHER DEEPLY FELT LOSS IN A YEAR OF SUCH LOSSES, thank you for your interest in my assessment and I hope that this brief comment brings some solace.

We should not just sit in stunned silence when those who have positively impacted some aspect of our lives—if only our imaginations—pass from among us. Our shared humanity mandates that for our own good, we acknowledge such a loss.

As a huge Star Wars fan, I too have had to try to wrap my mind around this very sad sequence of events. Perhaps an acknowledgement and view appropriate to Star Wars is in order:

Death, with its inescapable icy embrace, eventually casts its sardonic smile upon all things—people, planets, stars, galaxies, and—cosmologically  speaking—at some unimaginably distant time in the future and far, far away, even upon the Universe itself. But the Universe, in its incomprehensibly profound greatness, has endowed people not only with a consciousness of itself, but with the potential character and courage to reciprocate death’s greeting, to smile back. So though death comes like a malevolent intruder, a thief in the night, the Grim Reaper, need not have the last laugh.

Princess Leia and Mom, thanks for all the joy and memories. R.I.P. and—may the force be with you!

—Dr. Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate

SJSU Names 2016 Outstanding Seniors

Erin Enguero and Anna Santana are the recipients of SJSU’s 2016 Outstanding Graduating Senior Awards  in recognition of their scholarship and contributions to the community. Both will be recognized at Commencement, beginning at 9:30 a.m. May 28 in Spartan Stadium.

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero (photo by Inderpal Kaur)

Since age 11, having a hearing loss has influenced how Enguero identifies herself academically and socially. She has evolved from a self-described “cautious pre-teen to an ambitious young woman striving for excellence” in her educational and community endeavors.

Carrying a 3.796 GPA, she has earned numerous scholarships and has been recognized as a CSU Trustee Award winner, SJSU Salzburg Scholar and 2016 American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar.

While Enguero’s hearing loss has taught her to adapt using her existing strengths, she says she is proud “not just for overcoming my disability, but for finding the courage to explore my identities as a student, leader and, ultimately, an agent of change.”

Enguero graduates in May with a bachelor’s in kinesiology. In fall 2016, she plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at California State University, Fresno.

Anna Santana

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (photo courtesy of Anna Santana)

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (courtesy of Anna Santana)

At age six, Santana transferred schools three times in less than a year in search of a bilingual teacher. This daughter of former farmworkers says this was just part of the struggles that “have shaped my dreams and aspirations.”

Today, Santana advocates for the education of migrant families through the Apoyo Campesino project, which seeks to change a state regulation that forces students to move to a different school after each growing season ends.

In addition, Santana is the founder of the College Awareness Network, which has been integral in bringing students from marginalized schools to university campuses to promote a college-going culture.

A double major in sociology and Spanish, Santana will receive her bachelor’s degree in May. As a McNair Scholar, she maintains a 3.9 GPA and has been accepted to Stanford University for graduate school.

 

World-Renowned Sports Sociologist and SJSU Alumnus Harry Edwards to Serve as 2016 Commencement Speaker

Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

Harry Edwards speaks at a campus event in May 2012 (photo: Christina Olivas)

Harry Edwards speaks at a campus event in May 2012 (photo: Christina Olivas)

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University announced today that human and civil rights icon Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, will serve as its 2016 Commencement speaker. In addition, Edwards will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Commencement. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. May 28 at Spartan Stadium. The event will be streamed live on the university’s website.

“Harry Edwards came to San Jose State to pursue an education while representing the university in intercollegiate athletics, and he accomplished both with extraordinary distinction,” said SJSU Interim President Susan Martin. “Dr. Edwards went on to dedicate his life to developing innovative approaches for raising the nation’s consciousness about the hidden inequities and barriers that exist in our society through his work in athletics. We are proud to recognize his contributions with an honorary degree and look forward to hearing him address our graduates.”

This academic year, an estimated 9,000 San Jose State students will earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Approximately 15,000 family members and friends are expected to attend Commencement.

Harry Edwards

Harry Edwards, 73, was born in St. Louis, Mo., and raised in East St. Louis, Ill., the second of eight children. With no more than a third-grade education, his father supported the family and encouraged Harry to take advantage of the opportunities the sports world provided.

Edwards followed through, excelling in sports and academics in high school. With financial support from a St. Louis-area attorney, he arrived in California to attend Fresno City College on a track and basketball scholarship. He later transferred to San Jose State University, where he served as captain of the basketball team and set school records for the discus.

Edwards set SJSU records for the discus (courtesy of Spartan Athletics).

Edwards set SJSU records for the discus (courtesy of Spartan Athletics).

After graduating in 1964 with a degree in sociology, Edwards had three choices: professional football, professional basketball, or graduate school. He chose graduate school, and began work on master’s and doctoral degrees at Cornell University in New York. After completing his master’s degree, he took a break from his studies to return to San Jose State, where he worked as a part-time instructor of sociology.

The year was 1966, and the civil rights movement was in full swing. Drawing on his childhood experiences, his years as a college athlete, his academic training, and his desire to educate, Edwards began gaining national attention for speaking out on the inequities he perceived in the nation and the sports world.

“During the 1967 college football season, Edwards, then a part-time instructor… presented a list of civil rights grievances to the administration on behalf of the school’s black students, particularly its athletes. Edwards’s group threatened to ‘physically interfere’ with the opening game if demands were not met. It was a regional watershed in radical sports activism, and the mainstream reaction was also a first; the opening game was canceled,” according to The New York Times.

Taking a Stand

The following year brought the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy. Edwards lent his voice and support to the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a movement calling upon black athletes to boycott the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Watching television in the United States, Edwards observed SJSU track stars and U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos take a stand for human rights on the awards podium.

Harry Edwards and Sandra Boze Edwards met at SJSU, and have been married 47 years (courtesy of Mr. Edwards)

Harry Edwards and Sandra Boze Edwards met at SJSU (courtesy of Mr. Edwards).

At the time, all three men were heavily criticized for their actions. Three decades later, San Jose State student leaders recognized the courage of these Spartans by memorializing the moment with a 24-foot tall sculpture in the heart of our campus.

Edwards went on to earn a doctoral degree from Cornell University in 1971, and to begin a distinguished, three-decade career as a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. A giant of a man with a caring presence, his “Sociology of Sports” course was among the most popular on campus.

During that time, he remained in constant contact with the professional sports world, where he served as a consultant to two luminaries who also graduated from San Jose State: Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, ’59 Business, and the late San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh, ’55 BA, ’58 MA Education.

Providing Opportunity

In addition, Edwards worked with the Golden State Warriors and the University of Florida. In all of these roles, he sought to develop practices and programs to increase minority representation in the coaching ranks and to support players of color as they navigated the opportunities and pressures of college and professional sports. Edwards delivered a moving eulogy for Walsh, summarizing the ways they sought to provide opportunities to all NFL players.

Harry Edwards is the author of four books: “The Struggle That Must Be,” “Sociology of Sports,” “Black Students,” and “The Revolt of the Black Athlete.” He has been married for 47 years to Sandra Boze Edwards, ’70 BA Liberal Studies, ’88 MA Education. The couple resides in Fremont, Calif., and they are the parents of three now adult children: a lawyer, a physician, and an information technology/computer programming specialist.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

Ho Chi Minh City

40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City

San Jose State changed forever when Saigon fell 40 years ago today. Refugees who settled in the neighborhoods near campus grew into one the nation’s largest Vietnamese American communities. These days, many of these immigrants and their descendants are SJSU students, faculty and staff members, and alumni.

SJSU Professor of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Science Hien Duc Do fled Vietnam at age 14 just days before the fall. Drawing from his research on the Vietnamese American experience, Do appears as an expert commentator in many news accounts of the lasting impact of the war. These include special reports by the San Jose Mercury News, KPIX TV, KGO radio, KCBS radio and KLIV radio.

Prominent Vietnamese American writer and journalist Andrew Lam, who left his homeland at age 11, is teaching this term at San Jose State. He shares his views on Vietnam then and now with the Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera AmericaSan Jose Mercury News, KPIX TVKQED radio, and KLIV radio.

In a cover story on the Fall of Saigon, the Spartan Daily student newspaper profiles four local Vietnamese Americans. Accompanying the report online is a video documentary featuring, among others, a pastor, poet, and city council member. The student videographers discuss their work with NBC Bay AreaSouth Bay Pulse, an iPad app created by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, features the video and full-length profiles.

“The war created ripples that span generations,” the Spartan Daily says. “But despite the conflict, people have been able to start anew.”

 

lunar new year

Spartans Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year

An estimated 100,000 people in San Jose mark the holiday, including roughly 10,000 San Jose State students.

Red envelopes filled with cash, fire crackers and dancing lions are all part of the Lunar New Year – the most celebrated holiday of the year in the Asian culture. An estimated 100,000 people in San Jose mark the holiday, including roughly 10,000 San Jose State students.

Hien

Hien Duc Do

It’s the biggest day of celebration for a lot of Asian cultures. It’s like combining New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas all together,” said Hien Duc Do, director of the College of Social Sciences Student Success Center and professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences.

Although the Lunar New Year is celebrated by millions of people worldwide, there is some disagreement this year over which animal symbolizes the 2015 New Year. Some people believe it’s the sheep, while others say it’s the ram or goat.

It all began as a way for farmers to celebrate their rice harvest, reflect on the past year, and think about goals for the coming year. According to Professor Do, the holiday has significant meaning this year to the Vietnamese community because of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon this spring.

Every year, people continue the tradition by remembering ancestors, wishing family and friends prosperity and good health in the coming year.

alan wong replacement

SJSU Director of Development Alan Wong and family (courtesy of Alan Wong)

Traditionally, everything is about good wishes, clearing out the past and preparing for a new start; a new year. We visit relatives and use the opportunity to show appreciation to family and friends,” said Alan Wong, director of development at the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“We also celebrate with lots of food, big dinners, red round boxes of candies to great guests. You’ll see people wearing red clothes to symbolize new energy,” Wong said.

Sovannida Nau, ’16 Biomedical Engineering, has been celebrating the Chinese New Year since she was a baby.  She’s always received a “lucky” red envelope filled with cash, including this year.  She said she enjoys the special food and large family gatherings the most.

“I’ve grown up with this tradition and I really enjoy it.  When I have my own kids, it will be something I do as well.”

530 sova

Sovannida Nau, ’16 Biomedical Engineering (photo by Robin McElhatton)

There are several Lunar New Year events in the Bay Area this year. The largest ones are the Vietnamese Tet Festival at History Park San Jose on Feb. 28 and the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on March 7.

The Lunar New Year runs from Feb. 18-24.

Faculty Notes: Research, Recognition and Global Impact

rockfish

Assistant Professor Scott Hamilton will investigate the responses of juvenile rockfish to a marine environment that contains elevated levels of carbon dioxide and reduced levels of oxygen (image courtesy of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories).

Assistant Professor Scott Hamilton, Moss Landing Marine Labs, was awarded a multi-year $330,000 National Science Foundation grant to investigate the responses of juvenile rockfish to a marine environment that contains elevated levels of carbon dioxide and reduced levels of oxygen. How well the rockfish adapt will provide key information for fisheries and fishery managers. This research, incorporating both field and laboratory studies, builds on Hamilton’s previous scientific investigations of temperate marine fishes.

School of Social Work Professor Laurie Drabble received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the rates of alcohol consumption, hazardous drinking patterns and illicit drug use among sexual minority women. One of the aims of the study is to identify individual, community and societal factors that contribute—positively or negatively—to substance use, including such factors as social support and psychological distress. A member of California’s Women’s Health Survey Committee, Drabble also serves as an affiliate associate scientist with the Alcohol Research Group in Berkeley.

Produced and directed by Department of Linguistics and Language Development Professor Rosemary Henze, the documentary “Just a Piece of Cloth” received a Making a Difference Award at the Toronto Community Film Festival in September. The film, featuring Bay Area Muslim women, has also had screenings at UC Berkeley’s Conference on Islamophobia, the Monterey Institute of International Studies and elsewhere.

Department of Sociology Lecturer and Center for Community Learning and Leadership Co-Director Michael Fallon helped organize the 2014 Silicon Valley Neighborhood Development Training Conference. The day-long, annual campus event brings together local neighborhood leaders and veteran community development practitioners to participate in workshops focused on public safety, health and neighborhood improvement. Among this year’s workshop topics: “20 Tips for Growing Healthy Neighborhoods,” “The Future of Transportation in Silicon Valley” and “Supporting and Working with Youth in Our Community.”

School of Information Director Sandra Hirsh co-chaired the fourth annual Library 2.014 Worldwide Virtual Conference, held October 8 and 9. Conducted in multiple languages in multiple time zones over the course of two days, the free online conference provided participants with the opportunity to learn about the issues impacting the information profession from an international perspective. Presentations addressed such timely topics as MOOCs, e-books, mobile services, green libraries and more. Keynote and session recordings are available on the Library 2.0 YouTube channel.

Department of Economics Professor Jeffrey Rogers Hummel was one of a panel of experts asked by WalletHub.com, a web-based personal finance resource, to weigh in on the challenge of creating a skilled and educated workforce. The site, which published a list of the most and least educated cities among the largest cities in the United States in 2014, ranked San Jose seventh in a field of 150. Hummel’s suggestion: “The most important step toward developing a more educated and skillful workforce would be to eliminate all federal involvement entirely.”

set up man 300

Writing as T.T. Monday, Professor Taylor spins a tale about a baseball player/private investigator that “succeeds as both a mystery and a baseball novel,” according to Publishers Weekly.

President Mohammad Qayoumi’s appreciation of Afghanistan’s new president, “Ashraf Ghani and Afghanistan’s future,” was posted on the U.S. Congress blog The Hill, a forum for lawmakers and policy professionals. Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Qayoumi’s roommate at the American University of Beirut more than four decades ago, was inaugurated as Afghanistan’s president this month. “If anyone can keep Afghanistan on a road to coherent self government and democracy, it is Ghani.  From his earliest years he has had total clarity of purpose, great vision, and an incandescent passion to serve Afghanistan,” Qayoumi wrote. 

Department of English Associate Professor and Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies Director Nick Taylor discussed his new thriller, “The Setup Man” (Doubleday), at the Menlo Park Civic Center on Oct. 4. Writing as T.T. Monday, Taylor spins a tale about a baseball player/private investigator that “succeeds as both a mystery and a baseball novel,” according to Publishers Weekly. Taylor is the author of two previous historical novels, “The Disagreement” (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and “Father Junípero’s Confessor” (Heyday, 2013).

Honoring 45 Years of Teaching, Counseling and Fighting

Photo: J.P. Tran, '14 Graphic Design

Photo: J.P. Tran, ’14 Graphic Design

“After 45 years, Mohammad will go to the mountain.”

With that, President Qayoumi strode off the stage and through the crowd to hand deliver a very special honor at the 15th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on March 11 at the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom.

Seated near the front of the room, surrounded by friends and colleagues, was Wiggsy Sivertsen. Her official record includes stints as a counselor and faculty member.

But just as important has been her unofficial role as the heart and soul of San Jose State for more than four decades.

As the sun sets on my career, I can truly say that this has been the ride of my life,” Sivertsen said. “So many students have taught me and touched my life. My colleagues have enriched me.”

Student centered

Also recognized at this annual event were more than 120 faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service, as well as the recipients of the university’s top annual awards for faculty members.

The luncheon is always filled with faculty and staff members and administrators. But this year, sitting quietly in chairs off to the side of the room were a half-dozen students.

Carrying flowers for their professor, they talked their way in to see Distinguished Service Award Recipient Julia Curry Rodriguez.

And it was there on the floor, while the proceedings continued on stage, that teacher and students quietly celebrated the connection at the core of the luncheon.

Fighting for rights

Similarly, Sivertsen dedicated her entire career to service in the classroom and beyond, focusing on educating the public about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and fighting for the rights of all.

Soon after arriving at SJSU in 1968, she established the first gay student organization. She went on to co-found the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, a four-county LGBT political action group.

In the 1980s, she taught in the sociology department and later spent 11 years as director of counseling services.

Sivertsen has received numerous honors, including the American Civil Liberties Union “Don Edwards Defender of Constitutional Liberty Award.”

Thank you for your visionary leadership and dedication to San Jose State University,” said the commendation hand-delivered by the president.

“Your exemplary career of counseling and your tireless service and advocacy to the cause of civil rights attest to your lifetime spirited fight for equality.”

 

Linda Ronstadt to Speak at SJSU

Linda Ronstadt to Speak at SJSU

No admission fee will be charged so that all can attend. Donations will be accepted.

Since publishing her autobiography, Linda Ronstadt has spoken at several pricey Bay Area venues.

Professor of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Maria Luisa Alaniz wanted something different for SJSU.

This means organizers will request donations, not sell tickets, when the 11-time Grammy Award winner comes to Morris Dailey Auditorium 6 p.m. March 12.

This event is accessible to all community members,” Alaniz said. “No one will be turned away.”

Ronstadt will be in conversation with Alaniz and Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center Director Maribel Martinez, ’03 Political Science and Sociology, ’10 Applied Sociology.

Resiliency

Although the performer has lost her singing voice to Parkinson’s disease, music will remain a big part of the evening. Entertainers include Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de SJSU. Ronstadt remains close to San Jose’s Mexican Heritage and Mariachi Festival.

Broadly speaking, her career cut across so many musical genres—rock, country, blues—that she defies description. She is perhaps best known for the ballad “Blue Bayou” and the upbeat anthem “Somewhere Out There.”

ronstadt

Thirty signed copies of “Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir” will be available at a discounted price at the door.

Ronstadt made it look easy. It was not. A fragile beauty in front of the cameras when she emerged on the scene in the 1960s, she fought to forge her own path.

She found a way to express her creativity and independence in the tough, competitive music industry,” Alaniz said.

Ronstadt eventually returned to Mexican American roots belied by a German last name. She wore a traditional, embroidered suit while receiving a Grammy for her nostalgic 1989 album, “Canciones de Mi Padre” (“Songs of My Father”). 

Embracing culture and history

“It was just a beautiful thing to see her represent our music while also embracing our culture and our history,” Alaniz said.

It’s no coincidence the event’s principal organizers are women. Ronstadt may be older, but her journey resonates through the generations.

She was never afraid to lend her voice to social causes, and continues to do so today, making appearances even as her voice falters.

She has a lot to say to young women about resiliency,” Alaniz said. “She negotiated the music industry’s corporate world as a woman and for the most part a single woman. She really had to be courageous in creating her own eclectic career.”

American Public Media: Fighting for a Higher Minimum Wage

Posted Sept. 3, 2013 by American Public Radio.

Produced by Phoebe Judge

Listen to story.

As part of a class project, a group of students at San Jose State University started a campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage. They successfully persuaded the city to impose a 25 percent minimum wage increase, from $8 to $10 an hour. Elisha St. Laurent was a student in the class, and tells Dick Gordon she’s spent years struggling to support herself on a minimum wage salary.

Univision: California Student’s Idea Helps Working People’s Finances

Univision: California Student's Idea Helps Working People's Finances

Univision: California Student’s Idea Helps Working People’s Finances

Posted by Univision March 14, 2013.

Univision’s national news program interviews SJSU student Marisela Castro, whose proposal that she and her classmates push to raise the minimum wage in San Jose led to a successful ballot box measure implemented this month. Click here to view the story.

San Francisco Chronicle: Student Class Projects Leads to Minimum Wage Jump

Posted by the San Francisco Chronicle March 11, 2013.

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — If anyone deserves an A+ this week it’s Marisela Castro, a daughter of farmworkers who turned her Social Action class project at San Jose State University into a campaign to increase the local minimum wage.

On Monday her activism paid off, as 70,000 workers in San Jose enjoyed the nation’s single largest minimum-wage increase, a 25 percent raise from $8 to $10 an hour, amounting to a $4,000 annual bump in pay for a full time worker to $22,080.

“I never doubted for a minute we could make this happen,” said Castro, 28, who grew up in agriculture-rich Gilroy, where her parents and at times Castro picked garlic, lettuce and other vegetables in nearby fields.

While putting herself through college in 2011, Castro worked at an after-school program with low-income children who slipped snacks into their backpacks because there wasn’t enough food at home.

Meanwhile in her sociology classes she was reading about how a minimum wage job leaves workers — especially those in one of the wealthiest regions of the country — in severe poverty.

“When I understood what was happening in our community, it started to really piss me off,” she said.

In her Social Action class, sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton assigned everyone to create an advocacy campaign. Castro and several classmates chose raising the minimum wage.

“At some point during that semester it hit me that this was much more than a class project,” said classmate Leila McCabe, 31, who graduated and now works for a nonprofit. “But we were determined and now that it’s happening, it’s amazing, very emotional.”

The students started with a poll that found 70 percent of the community favored an increase. They later learned one in five local workers would be directly impacted. Then they asked Cindy Chavez, who heads the nonprofit Working Partnerships USA, for support.

“When you live in a place as expensive as Silicon Valley, the fact that people here are paid so little and still figure out a way to hang on by their fingernails here is just sort of astounding,” Chavez said. “We were very excited to take this on.”

In November, 59 percent of San Jose voters approved the raise, making it the largest city in the U.S. to date to raise its minimum wage.

“In providing the largest jump in the minimum wage in America, Silicon Valley once again shows that it is a national leader,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Honda, who represents the region.

Voters in Long Beach and Albuquerque, N.M., also approved similar measures in November. San Francisco’s $10.55 an hour minimum wage, the highest in the country, took effect on Jan. 1.

Nineteen states, including California, have also raised their minimum wage, and Congress is now considering a law that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality associate director Charles Varner said raising minimum wage can help address growing disparity.

“The rising inequality in the last four decades is a problem of the restructuring of our economy,” he said.

Opponents in San Jose said raising the minimum wage would cripple San Jose’s fragile economic recovery, causing employees to lose hours or even their jobs. On Monday, opponent Scott Knies, executive director of San Jose’s Downtown Association, said some businesses have already raised prices or cut hours.

But Knies was trying make the best of it, launching “Earn ‘n Spend in San Jose,” a campaign that urges workers who benefit from the raise to keep their dollars local.

Nick Taptelis, owner of Philz Coffee, raised his wages to $10 an hour more than a month ago and has seen happier workers which in turn brings more customers into his bustling shop near the university campus.

Castro, 28, was beaming as her former professor patted her on the back.

“This shows that regular folks can change economic policy in this country,” said Myers-Lipton.

Castro said her professor was “very inspiring.”

So what grade did she end up with?

“Actually I got a B,” she said. “He’s also a really hard grader.”

 

 

SJSU's Best of 2012

Olympian Tops SJSU’s Best of 2012

SJSU's Best of 2012

SJSU’s 2012 Olympian Marti Malloy is welcomed home by her coach, the legendary Yosh Uchida (Christina Olivas photo).

We’ve had an absolutely amazing year, Spartans!

When the time came for us to select the Best of 2012, it was super tough to choose just 10!

We would like to send a huge thanks to everyone who visited all of our online channels, whether it was our news, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or Pinterest pages.

We counted up all your clicks, likes, pins and tweets and SJSU’s 2012 Olympian Marti Malloy came out on top. Read her story and join us on Pinterest to add a comment.

Ripped From the Headlines

Many more of our top stories were ripped right out of the headlines, with students loving the passage of Prop. 30 and the tuition rollback that came along with it.

Our football team making it to the Military Bowl also touched off an avalanche of national media coverage.

Whether led by an enterprising professor or intrepid students, campus research boomed with a $73.3 million NASA grant and a mind-boggling motorcycle with spherical wheels.

We also scored in the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings, coming in ninth overall among the West’s top public universities.

Enriching the Educational Experience

Student life thrived, too. In May, two undergrads and two graduate students from the class of 2012 earned accolades for their outstanding work.

This summer, we welcomed incoming frosh with a super fun orientation program followed this fall by our largest career fair in five years.

We even set the stage for 2013, launching an initiative to roll out a whole bunch of online tools enriching the educational experience here at SJSU.

Stay tuned because things can only get better next year!

MSNBC: SJSU Students Champion San Jose Minimum Wage Hike

MSNBC: SJSU Students Champion San Jose Minimum Wage Hike

Melissa Harris-Perry (Heidi Gutman/MSNBC photo)

Posted by MSNBC in December 2012.

For her “Foot Soldiers” series, news show host Melissa Harris-Perry profiles three SJSU students who initiated the campaign to increase San Jose’s minimum wage.”These young California women … turned a class project into an effective movement for change. Their professor told them find a way to make the world a better place … Early next year, in San Jose, California, the minimum wage will rise from $8 an hour to $10 an hour. an increase that will further continue as the consumer price index goes up. All because three college students decided to do something, not just study something but do something to make a difference.” Harris-Perry is also a professor of political science at Tulane University, where she is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. View the full story. 

 

Spartans Impact 2012 Elections

SJSU's Impact on the 2012 Elections

Olympian John Carlos appeared with Measure D supporters at Legacy Week (photo courtesy of Scott Myers-Lipton).

San Jose State had a profound effect on the 2012 Elections, and vice versa.

An SJSU student started the movement that became Measure D, which will raise the minimum wage in San Jose to $10 per hour.

Marisela Castro won the support of her sociology professor, her classmates and voters, raising the potential of spawning a national movement.

Assistant Professor Melinda Jackson and Professor Larry Gerston took to the airwaves election night, serving as political commentators on KGO and NBC, respectively.

But it was the eight-year-old son of two other faculty members who stole the show. Ethan Percival correctly predicted the electoral college breakdown, winning a politics department contest.

Talk about starting young. Among the professors he beat were his parents, Assistant Professor Garrick Percival and Lecturer Mary Currin-Percival.

Jim Beall, Paul Fong, Barbara Spector, Larry Carr, Debbie Giordano and Rod Diridon, Jr. were among the many Spartans who won local elections. Know of more? Please contact us!

Proposition 30

Voters clearly voiced their support for public higher education by passing Proposition 30, which will stabilize state funding for SJSU in the short term.

President Mohammad Qayoumi will host a post-election budget forum 9 a.m. Nov. 27 in the Student Union Loma Prieta room.  The event will be streamed live online on the SJSU Budget Central website.

Students were of course thrilled to learn tuition would be rolled back to 2011-2012 levels, effective fall of this year. View current SJSU tuition and fees.

Some but not all students will receive refunds. If you’re a student, MySJSU is your first and best source of information.

New Fees?

One week after the elections, CSU Board of Trustees backed off plans to discuss fee increases for three specific groups of students: those who have earned more than 150 credits, those taking 18 or more credits, and those repeating courses.

Administrators want existing students to graduate, opening seats for new students. But trustees need time to “gather additional information and input from stakeholders,” according to a CSU news release.

Around 385 SJSU students with more than 150 credits and 150 students enrolled in 18 or more credits would have been affected if the fees had been implemented this term. Academic advising is available to all.

Wall Street Journal: SJSU Professor, Students Take on Business Community in Effort to Raise Minimum Wage

Businesses Fight San Jose Wage Proposal

Posted by the Wall Street Journal Aug. 22, 2012.

By Bobby White

SAN JOSE—A voter initiative to raise this city’s minimum wage, set for the November ballot, has spurred a fight with small-business owners who say it could drive up costs and force layoffs.

The proposition, created by a group of San Jose State University students, would raise the city’s hourly minimum wage to $10 from the current $8 state requirement, and include yearly inflation adjustments. It is modeled on San Francisco’s 2003 minimum-wage ordinance, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index that since 2003 has raised the minimum wage by $3.49 to $10.24 an hour.

San Jose business leaders say the increase would drive businesses from the city.

“I don’t think the measure’s proponents understand the economic impact this will have on small and medium-sized businesses,” says Matt Mahood, president of the San Jose Chamber of Commerce. “Most of these guys are already struggling with the down economy and now this will compound their problems.”

Charlie Major, of Charlie’s Cheesecake Works, says the wage increase could make his bakery unprofitable.

Mr. Mahood says business owners won’t only have to pay more to their workers but also will see a 15% to 17% increase in their payroll taxes, since they are tied to the wage rate.

The proposition’s backers say the minimum-wage increase will help to pare the growing inequality in the city. “Costs in every major category have increased—energy, health care, education—and yet salaries for those making the bare minimum have remained stagnant,” says Alberto Perez, a recent sociology graduate from San Jose State who helped craft the measure.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. States can set their own minimum above that. California’s is $8.00.

Few U.S. cities have established their own minimum wages. In addition to San Francisco, Santa Fe, N.M., has set its minimum at $10.29 and Washington, D.C., has a minimum of $8.25.

About 30 California cities require certain employers to pay a “living wage,” a minimum hourly pay for employees of companies that have been awarded government contracts or that operate in a certain industry. San Jose, for example, requires businesses contracting with the city to pay at least $13.59 an hour, or $14.84 if the employer doesn’t provide health insurance.

A 2007 study by the University of California, Berkeley, which analyzed the impact of San Francisco’s minimum wage on businesses, found that the city’s wage didn’t affect employment growth.

The study also said that job tenure increased for workers by about four months and that 6% of the work force moved from part-time to full-time jobs after the law’s enactment.

“The data just do not bear out any adverse effects on employment after a minimum-wage increase,” says Michael Reich, a UC economics professor who led the study.

Other academics, such as Suzanne Clain of Villanova School of Business, have argued that raising the minimum wage does lead to certain job losses. Ms. Clain says most proponents focus on minimum-wage employers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and McDonald’s Corp., which she says can absorb such increases.

“The small businesses in San Jose should be concerned,” she says. “I understand the popular idea but there is no denying the effects on costs for the small businesses there.”

The San Jose initiative began in October 2010, springing out of a sociology-class assignment in which students analyzed social problems in the Bay Area. The San Jose State students decided to challenge the city’s minimum wage after analyzing San Francisco’s increase and finding that Oregon, Washington and Nevada set higher minimums than California’s.

In 2011, the students decided to push for a ballot measure and raised about $6,000 to hire a pollster to see if such an initiative would be attractive to voters.

The pollster projected a 60% approval rating, and in November 2011, the students began collecting the more than 40,000 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. By January, they had gathered enough.

“While it has been portrayed as if we naively took this issue on without taking the time to study up, that is just wrong,” says Scott Myers-Lipton, a San Jose State sociology professor who manages the project. “The students have worked hard to be sure this is a viable and worthy issue to take up.”

Local merchants like Charlie Major say an increase in the minimum wage could hurt their business.

Mr. Major, who operates a bakery, Charlie’s Cheesecake Works, southeast of downtown, estimates the wage increase could boost his costs by about $7,500 annually, or about 3% of his yearly revenue.

Mr. Major has four employees whose hourly wages range from $9 to $10, based upon experience. He says he sympathizes with workers but that the increase could make his business unprofitable.

“I understand the moral argument but that does not negate the reality of how the math works out,” says Mr. Major, a single father of two who worked his way through college. “This is going to kill a lot of the mom and pops that operate in this city.”

Rich De La Rosa, president of De La Rosa Latin American Imports Inc., a retail business his family has operated for more than 70 years, says the additional annual cost for his six employees would be as much as $8,000 at his store, located in a shopping mall south of downtown.

Mr. De La Rosa says the current economic environment is the worst he has ever seen, resulting in stagnant sales.

“It’s going to be hard to keep my doors open if this [ballot measure] is approved,” he says.

SJ Mercury News: Social Service Agencies Support Student-led Minimum Wage Campaign

Poncho Guevara and Kathleen Krenek: Higher minimum wage in San Jose would change lives

Published by the San Jose Mercury News May 18, 2012.

By Poncho Guevara and Kathleen Krenek

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council could dramatically change the lives of thousands of workers in San Jose with one vote — to increase the minimum wage in the city to $10 an hour.

Workers like a client of both of ours whom we’ll call Olivia.

A single mother of two boys, a second-grader and a college freshman, Olivia works full-time at a fast-food restaurant making $8 an hour. She is a wonderful mom who has been raising her children on her own after escaping an abusive relationship five years ago — which is the reason we can’t use her name. She works hard and makes her children’s education her first priority.

Olivia’s biweekly paycheck comes to $575. She rents a studio apartment ($800), purchases bus passes for herself and her 8-year-old ($115), pays for utilities ($41) and maintains a subsidized phone line ($9). This leaves about $185 in a typical month to feed, clothe, and educate her sons.

An emergency root canal last fall nearly left them homeless. The payment plan eats up nearly a third of that $185.

A $2 increase in the minimum wage could translate into $340 more each month. We asked Olivia what she would do with the extra income, and without hesitation she said, “Food, more food, better food!”

Sacred Heart Community Service saw 57,000 children and adults last year in need of assistance with food, clothing, utilities and other critical needs. Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence provided support to 10,000 individuals.

Most are parents who are working hard, sometimes two or three jobs, yet they cannot make ends meet. These are parents making impossible choices between food and housing, utilities and health care — and unimaginable choices between staying in a violent relationship and homelessness. Too many are forced to stay in the former.

Last year a group of San Jose State students asked a critical question: If working parents like Olivia are doing everything society demands of them as employees and as parents, why do they live in poverty?

They identified a policy alternative and tested the argument that forcing businesses to pay their employees $10 an hour would cause them to cut jobs or move to other communities. A Cornell University study on the effect of San Francisco’s similar 2004 minimum wage increase concluded that “the policy increased worker pay and compressed wage inequality, but did not create any detectable employment loss among affected (businesses).”

The SJSU students developed a coalition with community organizations and faith communities that mobilized 36,000 people to sign petitions in five weeks for a ballot proposition to raise the minimum wage in San Jose.

More than an academic exercise, this is personal for these students. Many grew up in families like Olivia’s. Some are low-wage working moms. They experience spiraling education costs, cuts to the public safety net, the slashing of child care subsidies and the proliferation of low-wage jobs. They know the mathematics of surviving in Silicon Valley.

Olivia had refused to let her older son work. “School is his job,” she said. “I feel blessed that my son is in college, and I have high hopes for him.”

But last week he decided to leave school to help support his family — in a minimum wage job.

The City Council can do the right thing and pass this increase Tuesday instead of sending it on to the ballot. It will be a historic day for so many families in our community.

Families like Olivia’s.

Poncho Guevara is executive director of Sacred Heart Community Service, and Kathleen Krenek is executive director of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. They wrote this for this newspaper.

The Nation: Student-Led “Raise the Wage” Campaign Mirrors National Movement

Student Activism as the Tip of the Spear: Raising the Minimum Wage in San Jose

Posted by The Nation April 17, 2012.

By Amy Dean

Given an assignment in a sociology class with Professor Scott Myers-Lipton to examine how organizing could make a difference in their community, a group of thirty San Jose State students put their studies into practice and launched a campaign that has gained the support of young labor activists, community groups and faith-based organizations—and now the city of San Jose could see a pay raise because of it.

The coalition is pushing to raise the city of San Jose’s minimum wage by 25 percent—from $8 per hour to $10 per hour—with annual inflation adjustments.

“What’s powerful about the campaign is that it is student-initiated,” Myers-Lipton says. “They’re working-class students for the most part, and there’s an incredible diversity in the student body. I think it’s visionary to see this multi-ethnic group of students working together.”

The movement has taken on a life of its own with the local labor council and community partners stepping up as the fight intensifies. Supporters of the minimum wage increase have attracted positive media attention and have stayed focused on winning a high-road campaign while preparing for heavy opposition from the Chamber of Commerce as their measure makes its way toward the November ballot.

The San Jose State students are moving this issue forward with the help of “Next Gen,” a labor-inspired organization that motivates young people to take control of their future. “We want to help rebuild and reshape the economy to make it work for young people and working families,” says Anna Schlotz, the 26-year-old president of Next Gen, Bay Area. “That’s what a local policy like raising the minimum wage does. It’s an incredibly exciting campaign that Next Gen is proud to be a part of.”

The San Jose campaign is also part of a new wave of efforts to spread the benefits of existing “living wage” bills to a larger group of workers. Typically, when a locality passes a living wage ordinance, it requires that those doing business with the city pay workers a higher rate. But the San Jose measure that the young people are working to pass applies to all workers—constituting a minimum wage boost for the whole city. If passed, it would place San Jose alongside Washington, DC, San Francisco and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the only cities with local ordinances requiring wages higher than state minimums for all employees.

From Classroom to Practice

As part of Myers-Lipton’s Sociology 164 course on Social Action, students studied President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposal for an Economic Bill of Rights. As student activist Elisha St. Laurent explains, “The economic bill of rights guarantees everyone a job, a living wage, a decent home, medical care, economic protection during sicknesses or old age or unemployment.” The minimum wage campaign is a practical way of making some of these guarantees more attainable for San Jose residents. “We’re trying to link the economic bill of rights to inequality in the San Jose area,” she says.

As the mother of a five-year-old boy and someone who is working to pay for college, St. Laurent has experienced the realities of the low-wage economy directly. “Especially as a single mother,” she says, “you know I’m continually struggling. I’m always working minimum wage. Right now I make $9.25, so it would be a 75-cent increase for me. But an extra $100 or $200 in my check would make a difference. It’s making sure that I have gas in my car so that I can take my son to school, and then still being able to pay my bills.”

“Young workers are really struggling in the recession,” adds Schlotz. “Almost a third of young people are unemployed or underemployed and dealing with rising tuition, healthcare and costs of living. Especially in the Silicon Valley, you can work full-time and live in poverty. We threw ourselves into gathering signatures because we know raising the minimum wage could dramatically improve the lives of many low-wage and young workers.”

The Mercury News recently reported, “Annual full-time undergraduate tuition and fees at San Jose State have climbed from $3,992 in 2008 to $6,840 this year.” During this time, the minimum wage has not risen. The campaign website also notes that, according to US News and World Report, “San Jose is in the Top 10 US Cities where rents are spiking.”

Rallying Allies

As the students moved forward with the idea, they found significant partners such as Working Partnerships USA, a think tank for public policy that affects working class families, the NAACP and the local faith-based group Sacred Heart Community Service.

Myers-Lipton explains, “Early on, there was a discussion that occurs in any campaign asking, ‘Is this winnable? Is it worth putting in all the effort.’ At that point [Sacred Heart Executive Director] Poncho [Guevara] said, ‘You know, win or lose, we need to put forward a vision of what we stand for. We need to be putting our vision forward rather than  always being on the defensive. So even if we lose, we’re going to win in the long run.'”

“It was a decisive moment for us,” says Myers-Lipton. “Because you can only do so many things in the community, and you have to decide what are you going to spend your time on. When Poncho said that, there was kind of a gathering around his vision of, even if we ‘lose’ with this campaign, we’re still going to win. And there’s a chance that we’re not going to lose.”

To show that the campaign was serious, the nascent coalition raised $6,000 and commissioned a professional polling firm to gauge community support for the measure. The poll showed that public support for a $10 minimum wage was very high—high enough to quell any doubts that the campaign could win.

Following the poll, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, seeing the distinct connection between the minimum wage campaign and its efforts to improve the lives of working families, got on board as well. “These young people had a great idea and we thought there was enough staying power for us to get engaged,” said Cindy Chavez, Executive Officer of the Labor Council. Community-labor groups have provided training and resources as the campaign has moved forward.

Myers-Lipton explains, “The South Bay Labor Council has been decisive. They’re not taking over from the students, but they’re saying, ‘We’re here. We’re in this with you side-by-side.'”

Sign for Justice

In order to get the measure onto the November ballot, the campaign, which is calling itself Raise the Wage San Jose, needed to get over 19,000 signatures by the beginning of May. They’ve already passed that mark. On March 28, students, members of Next Gen and other community organizations marched to San Jose City Hall to submit more than 35,000 signatures to the city clerk.

While unionized workers generally won’t benefit directly from a minimum wage increase, Chavez says that labor council members still see this effort as critical for the city. “They see that this economy is bullying two-thirds of the people who live in it. They are not going to take it from the bully anymore. Living wage and minimum wage drives are just one way to tell the bully to back off: ‘You’re not getting our lunch money today, and we are not going to let some people become impoverished in this country while others become so wealthy.'”

Chavez cites labor’s engagement with students as an exciting development, describing the intersection of broad-based “horizontal” outreach and the “vertical” structures of established groups: “On the horizontal side you have youth and hope… On the vertical front though, there’s a level of expertise that [labor] institutions bring with them, along with resources that can’t be easily garnered by a horizontal group. It’s exciting. In a way, the students are the tip of the spear of the new activism.”

Boosting the Economy from the Bottom Up

With the signatures in, the campaign is working to make sure San Jose’s City Council does not delay in putting it on the November ballot. “We are putting a lot of pressure on,” says Chavez. “We turned in the signatures a full month earlier than we had to in order to make sure that we don’t get cheated out of an opportunity to go to the ballot in the fall.”

Resistance to bringing the measure to voters would come as a result of business opposition. Myers-Lipton explains, “In any campaign there’s going to be a response from our opponents. The question is, how strong will the opponents come in against it and chip away at the lead that we have?”

With cities such as San Francisco passing higher minimum wages, corporate lobbyists created a front group called Employment Policies Institute, which promotes the message that raising the minimum wage is bad for business. Currently the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce is not taking a position on the minimum wage measure, but a spokesperson told the San Jose Mercury News March 29 that raising the minimum wage “could have unintended consequences.”

In response, the Raise the Wage campaign site notes research from the Journal of Industrial Relations, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and other sources showing that business’s foreboding warnings are unfounded. “Study after study after study has shown that minimum wage increases have not led to job loss, even during the latest recession,” the campaign states.

St. Laurent cites the economic benefit of the wage measure. The research regarding San Francisco, she says, “actually shows that when they raised the minimum wage to $10.25, it boosted businesses. If people have money, they’re able to give back to the economy. If you don’t have money, then you’re not going to go spend.”

Nor is St. Laurent daunted by opponents’ attacks. “As a group, we just continue to press on,” she says. “We don’t allow negativism to come against us. Our motivation comes from other people. We want to be able to live in an adequate environment—paying for our bills and paying for things that we need for our children. That’s why we’re coming together as a team.”

Chavez believes the example of the student-labor-interfaith coalition in San Jose can be contagious. “This fall we’ll be asking the voters of the tenth largest city in the country to give people a raise,” she says. “My hope is that it will happen in other cities—that this will continue to catch fire and people will try to do the same thing across the country.”

The Nation: Student-Led "Raise the Wage" Campaign Mirrors National Movement

Student Activism as the Tip of the Spear: Raising the Minimum Wage in San Jose

Posted by The Nation April 17, 2012.

By Amy Dean

Given an assignment in a sociology class with Professor Scott Myers-Lipton to examine how organizing could make a difference in their community, a group of thirty San Jose State students put their studies into practice and launched a campaign that has gained the support of young labor activists, community groups and faith-based organizations—and now the city of San Jose could see a pay raise because of it.

The coalition is pushing to raise the city of San Jose’s minimum wage by 25 percent—from $8 per hour to $10 per hour—with annual inflation adjustments.

“What’s powerful about the campaign is that it is student-initiated,” Myers-Lipton says. “They’re working-class students for the most part, and there’s an incredible diversity in the student body. I think it’s visionary to see this multi-ethnic group of students working together.”

The movement has taken on a life of its own with the local labor council and community partners stepping up as the fight intensifies. Supporters of the minimum wage increase have attracted positive media attention and have stayed focused on winning a high-road campaign while preparing for heavy opposition from the Chamber of Commerce as their measure makes its way toward the November ballot.

The San Jose State students are moving this issue forward with the help of “Next Gen,” a labor-inspired organization that motivates young people to take control of their future. “We want to help rebuild and reshape the economy to make it work for young people and working families,” says Anna Schlotz, the 26-year-old president of Next Gen, Bay Area. “That’s what a local policy like raising the minimum wage does. It’s an incredibly exciting campaign that Next Gen is proud to be a part of.”

The San Jose campaign is also part of a new wave of efforts to spread the benefits of existing “living wage” bills to a larger group of workers. Typically, when a locality passes a living wage ordinance, it requires that those doing business with the city pay workers a higher rate. But the San Jose measure that the young people are working to pass applies to all workers—constituting a minimum wage boost for the whole city. If passed, it would place San Jose alongside Washington, DC, San Francisco and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the only cities with local ordinances requiring wages higher than state minimums for all employees.

From Classroom to Practice

As part of Myers-Lipton’s Sociology 164 course on Social Action, students studied President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposal for an Economic Bill of Rights. As student activist Elisha St. Laurent explains, “The economic bill of rights guarantees everyone a job, a living wage, a decent home, medical care, economic protection during sicknesses or old age or unemployment.” The minimum wage campaign is a practical way of making some of these guarantees more attainable for San Jose residents. “We’re trying to link the economic bill of rights to inequality in the San Jose area,” she says.

As the mother of a five-year-old boy and someone who is working to pay for college, St. Laurent has experienced the realities of the low-wage economy directly. “Especially as a single mother,” she says, “you know I’m continually struggling. I’m always working minimum wage. Right now I make $9.25, so it would be a 75-cent increase for me. But an extra $100 or $200 in my check would make a difference. It’s making sure that I have gas in my car so that I can take my son to school, and then still being able to pay my bills.”

“Young workers are really struggling in the recession,” adds Schlotz. “Almost a third of young people are unemployed or underemployed and dealing with rising tuition, healthcare and costs of living. Especially in the Silicon Valley, you can work full-time and live in poverty. We threw ourselves into gathering signatures because we know raising the minimum wage could dramatically improve the lives of many low-wage and young workers.”

The Mercury News recently reported, “Annual full-time undergraduate tuition and fees at San Jose State have climbed from $3,992 in 2008 to $6,840 this year.” During this time, the minimum wage has not risen. The campaign website also notes that, according to US News and World Report, “San Jose is in the Top 10 US Cities where rents are spiking.”

Rallying Allies

As the students moved forward with the idea, they found significant partners such as Working Partnerships USA, a think tank for public policy that affects working class families, the NAACP and the local faith-based group Sacred Heart Community Service.

Myers-Lipton explains, “Early on, there was a discussion that occurs in any campaign asking, ‘Is this winnable? Is it worth putting in all the effort.’ At that point [Sacred Heart Executive Director] Poncho [Guevara] said, ‘You know, win or lose, we need to put forward a vision of what we stand for. We need to be putting our vision forward rather than  always being on the defensive. So even if we lose, we’re going to win in the long run.'”

“It was a decisive moment for us,” says Myers-Lipton. “Because you can only do so many things in the community, and you have to decide what are you going to spend your time on. When Poncho said that, there was kind of a gathering around his vision of, even if we ‘lose’ with this campaign, we’re still going to win. And there’s a chance that we’re not going to lose.”

To show that the campaign was serious, the nascent coalition raised $6,000 and commissioned a professional polling firm to gauge community support for the measure. The poll showed that public support for a $10 minimum wage was very high—high enough to quell any doubts that the campaign could win.

Following the poll, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, seeing the distinct connection between the minimum wage campaign and its efforts to improve the lives of working families, got on board as well. “These young people had a great idea and we thought there was enough staying power for us to get engaged,” said Cindy Chavez, Executive Officer of the Labor Council. Community-labor groups have provided training and resources as the campaign has moved forward.

Myers-Lipton explains, “The South Bay Labor Council has been decisive. They’re not taking over from the students, but they’re saying, ‘We’re here. We’re in this with you side-by-side.'”

Sign for Justice

In order to get the measure onto the November ballot, the campaign, which is calling itself Raise the Wage San Jose, needed to get over 19,000 signatures by the beginning of May. They’ve already passed that mark. On March 28, students, members of Next Gen and other community organizations marched to San Jose City Hall to submit more than 35,000 signatures to the city clerk.

While unionized workers generally won’t benefit directly from a minimum wage increase, Chavez says that labor council members still see this effort as critical for the city. “They see that this economy is bullying two-thirds of the people who live in it. They are not going to take it from the bully anymore. Living wage and minimum wage drives are just one way to tell the bully to back off: ‘You’re not getting our lunch money today, and we are not going to let some people become impoverished in this country while others become so wealthy.'”

Chavez cites labor’s engagement with students as an exciting development, describing the intersection of broad-based “horizontal” outreach and the “vertical” structures of established groups: “On the horizontal side you have youth and hope… On the vertical front though, there’s a level of expertise that [labor] institutions bring with them, along with resources that can’t be easily garnered by a horizontal group. It’s exciting. In a way, the students are the tip of the spear of the new activism.”

Boosting the Economy from the Bottom Up

With the signatures in, the campaign is working to make sure San Jose’s City Council does not delay in putting it on the November ballot. “We are putting a lot of pressure on,” says Chavez. “We turned in the signatures a full month earlier than we had to in order to make sure that we don’t get cheated out of an opportunity to go to the ballot in the fall.”

Resistance to bringing the measure to voters would come as a result of business opposition. Myers-Lipton explains, “In any campaign there’s going to be a response from our opponents. The question is, how strong will the opponents come in against it and chip away at the lead that we have?”

With cities such as San Francisco passing higher minimum wages, corporate lobbyists created a front group called Employment Policies Institute, which promotes the message that raising the minimum wage is bad for business. Currently the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce is not taking a position on the minimum wage measure, but a spokesperson told the San Jose Mercury News March 29 that raising the minimum wage “could have unintended consequences.”

In response, the Raise the Wage campaign site notes research from the Journal of Industrial Relations, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and other sources showing that business’s foreboding warnings are unfounded. “Study after study after study has shown that minimum wage increases have not led to job loss, even during the latest recession,” the campaign states.

St. Laurent cites the economic benefit of the wage measure. The research regarding San Francisco, she says, “actually shows that when they raised the minimum wage to $10.25, it boosted businesses. If people have money, they’re able to give back to the economy. If you don’t have money, then you’re not going to go spend.”

Nor is St. Laurent daunted by opponents’ attacks. “As a group, we just continue to press on,” she says. “We don’t allow negativism to come against us. Our motivation comes from other people. We want to be able to live in an adequate environment—paying for our bills and paying for things that we need for our children. That’s why we’re coming together as a team.”

Chavez believes the example of the student-labor-interfaith coalition in San Jose can be contagious. “This fall we’ll be asking the voters of the tenth largest city in the country to give people a raise,” she says. “My hope is that it will happen in other cities—that this will continue to catch fire and people will try to do the same thing across the country.”

KTVU 2: 35,000 Sign Student Petition to Raise the Minimum Wage

KTVU 2: 35,000 Sign Student Petition to Raise the Minimum Wage

KTVU 2: 35,000 Sign Student Petition to Raise the Minimum Wage

What started as a school project for an SJSU sociology class has turned into an organized campaign to change San Jose law regarding what lowest paid workers must be paid.  A coalition of community organizations and social justice groups are supporting the effort, which included a petition to place the issue on the November ballot. “Yesterday, we achieved a milestone in our campaign to raise the minimum wage in San Jose from $8 to $10, as we turned in 35,814 signatures to the City Clerk,” Professor of Sociology Scott Myers-Lipton said March 30. “We need only 19,161 valid signatures to qualify our measure for the November 2012 ballot, so we believe we have met the threshold.”  This milestone received much media coverage, such as this video aired by KTVU 2 on March 29. Here are links to more coverage:

Check out the campaign’s web site.

KQED: Students Begin Petitioning to Raise Minimum Wage

San Jose State Students Campaign to Raise City’s Minimum Wage

Posted by KQED News Fix blog Feb. 16, 2012.

By Peter Jon Shuler

San Jose State University students kicked off their petition campaign Thursday for a ballot measure to raise the city’s minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour.

Elisha St. Laurent is a senior studying behavioral science and sociology. She says that as a single mother of a 5-year-old boy she takes the campaign personally.

“You’ve got all the odds against you,” St. Laurent says. “But I keep continually fighting for what I believe in and that’s an education. But at the same time, living on minimum wage, I am not adequately making enough to provide for my son.”

St. Laurent, who was among the first to sign the petition, says it’s nearly impossible for someone earning minimum wage to live in Silicon Valley. She thinks it’s significant that students created the petition.

“It’s all about social action,” St. Laurent says. “We are the people. We need to speak out and become leaders. It’s not one person speaking out. It’s all of us collectively speaking together.”

The students point to San Francisco’s $10.24 minimum wage for inspiration. But Vice President Pat Sausedo of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce favors a statewide approach to raising the minimum wage rather than doing it city-by-city.

“San Jose isn’t San Francisco,” Sausedo says, pointing to San Francisco’s relative isolation from neighboring cities and its preeminence as a tourist destination.

Sausedo adds that raising the minimum wage would put the city at a competitive disadvantage — especially among small and mid-sized businesses which have yet to feel the recovery.

“They could well lose business,” she says. “They would have to pass their increased cost onto their customers and this ultimately would be a disincentive to people shopping in San Jose.”

The city clerk certified the petition Wednesday night, but students have been working on it for more than a year as part of a class project in civic action. They need to gather more than 19,000 valid signatures by May 15th in order to get a measure on the November ballot.