A Mall With Two Minimum Wages

Play associated audio

The Westfield Valley Fair Mall straddles two cities. One side of the mall is in Santa Clara, but walk a few feet down the mall, and you're in San Jose. In 2012, San Jose voters agreed to raise the city's minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour.

Philip Sandigo manages a shoe store on the $8-an-hour side. When San Jose raised the minimum wage, he lost about half his staff.

They went to the stores on the side of the mall that paid $2 an hour more.

Sandigo asked the owners of the shoe store if he could raise wages, but they said no. Almost two years later, it's still a struggle to hire new employees.

"We get the bottom of the barrel here," Sandigo says. "Not really focused. ... One guy came in high the other day."

On the $10-an-hour side of the mall, stores like Wetzel's Pretzels have different problems. Suddenly, the shop had to pay the lowest-wage workers more — 25 percent more. That was great for the employees, but a challenge for the owner, Yvonne Ryzak.

Ryzak had a few options. One was to sell more pretzels. She did the math and it came out to selling 250 or 300 more every two weeks. But she didn't start selling more pretzels just because the minimum wage went up in San Jose.

Another way to deal with the wage hike was to cut staff. But Ryzak figured that would lead to long lines and lost sales.

She could also raise her prices. But the other pretzel shop on the lower-wage side of the mall made that difficult.

In the end, Ryzak raised her prices a little bit and made up the rest by cutting into her profits.

Ryzak says she's fine with raising the minimum wage. She just wishes it was the same everywhere — across the mall, California, and the entire country.

Since 2012, the minimum wage rates in the mall have changed again: Santa Clara's minimum wage is now $9 an hour; San Jose's, $10.15.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


'We All Have To Do Something': Nina Jacobson On Diversifying Hollywood

No one knows the struggles and successes of women in Hollywood better than Nina Jacobson, the producer of the Hunger Games movies. NPR catches up with one of the most powerful women in the business.

Fine Brine From Appalachia: The Fancy Mountain Salt That Chefs Prize

An artisanal salt producer is processing brine from ancient ocean deposits below West Virgina's mountains. The company, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, ships to top chefs who value the salt's minerality.

Downed Russian Warplane Highlights Regional Divide On Syria

Hugh Pope, director of communications and outreach at the International Crisis Group in Brussels, explains the growing divide between Turkey and Russia on their priorities inside Syria.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.