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Opportunity to Work Initiative heads to the ballot

June 29, 2016

We did it! Thanks to hundreds of community leaders and tens of thousands of voters, the Opportunity to Work Initiative will come before San Jose voters in November - San Jose City Council made it official late yesterday.

Opportunity to Work will help 64,000 part-time workers get access to more hours on the job so their paychecks can cover the bills. San Jose's voters now have a chance to change the rules of the economy for working people.

The Silicon Valley economy is failing working people. Our low unemployment rate masks the reality of a crisis of underemployment where qualified, trained workers aren’t given enough hours by their employers to make ends meet. Inadequate hours erode the value of the minimum wage increases that we've all fought so hard for.

As shown in our recent report, A Hidden Crisis: Underemployment in Silicon Valley’s Hourly Workforce, among the estimated 162,000 people employed in hourly jobs in San Jose, the portion who have part-time or variable schedules at their main jobs has grown from 26% to 43% in just the last decade.

Maria Najera has worked for McDonald's for 20 years and lives with her grandson and her daughter, a student who works two jobs. She was working 35 or 40 hours a week until a new manager came in and cut her schedule in half. She asks for more hours, but the manager says there is no work - while continuing to hire new employees. Meanwhile, Maria - who serves food to hundreds of people each week - has to turn to food pantries to get her next meal.

Maria is not alone. There are at least 64,000 working people in the city of San Jose – overwhelmingly comprised of women, people of color and immigrants – who do not have full-time work at their primary job. And many of them would work more hours if they were simply asked.

That is what the Opportunity to Work initiative is about – giving qualified, trained workers first access to new hours, as they become available. We all benefit when workers can get enough hours at one job, rather than having to find two or even three part-time jobs to make ends meet.