This past Sunday, our team had brunch with Alex Andrade in order to create an objective and logistical timeline for the next few weeks. During our discussion, we decided to dedicate the next two weeks to conduct site visits to Mountain View’s Castro Street (downtown) to interview local business owners and their employees about the pending preparations for the enactment of the $15.00 minimum wage ordinance.
To do so, we are dividing our outreach to a physical and a digital medium. Physically, we are splitting up into two teams (Gabi and Sean; Holden and Denzel) to visit Alex this Thursday (10/12) and Friday (10/13) in Mountain View where he works at City Hall to discover the scene on Castro Street. We have created two separate lists of questions for employers and employees to discover more of the economic (employers) and social (employees) impacts and influences of the ordinance onto the more than 260 local businesses in Mountain View. Digitally, we will be outreaching to the same businesses (with the help and relations Alex already has) with an anonymous Google Form that has the same questions, as we assume that individuals will be more hesitant in-person and could contribute more freely online behind a screen.
What We Observed and Learned
During the first site visit on Thursday, we visited the Executive Directors of the Central Business Association (CBA). During our initial meeting before outreaching to businesses, we discussed the questions we prepared. We decided to modify the wordings of our questions to more base-level, “easy to comprehend with little time” questions because of our limited time to conduct field research.
After visiting 5-6 different businesses and their owners, we discovered a multitude of opinions that confirmed Alex’s assumptions about their reactions to the minimum wage ordinance. For one, many businesses have a negative opinion of the timeline of the wage increases because they cannot compensate for rising commercial rental prices, sustaining the same number of work-hours for their employees while balancing their (the owner’s) hours at the same level, and finally, they do not have enough time to prepare financially for the wage increases. Most businesses highlighted that although Mountain View will be economically growing at an unprecedented rate, the minimum wage is not at the same level as the “living wage,” which many owners stated is around $30-35 per hour. Furthermore, although we attempted to allocate ten or so minutes to each business, the owners were more than willing to chat about the ordinance, with some interviews lasting more than 25 minutes. In the future, we will be more conscious about allocating our time more efficiently. We will comment further on our Friday visit on the reflection due for next week.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
After interviewing businesses in downtown Mountain View, a few key themes and actions were prevalent throughout their opinions:
- Many businesses are seeking to sell their commercial real estate or move their businesses out of Mountain View in the next 1-3 years in search of cheaper areas to operate. We have noticed that the turnaround of many businesses throughout the Bay Area’s wealthy downtowns are witnessing the same dilemma.
- Although many businesses have reacted to the ordinance by diversifying their products, increasing prices by more than 6-7%, or by increasing their advertised wages, their responses are not actively diminishing the pressure by the increasing cost of living. For example, one business mentioned that they cannot downsize their workforce because they need the same amount of employees to run their business efficiently.
- Many businesses seem to have a negative opinion about the City of Mountain View’s City Council, which was not as transparent through the ordinance’s passage and the details associated with economic “promises” the city upheld in its campaign.
- The one category of businesses that our team should now be focusing on is RETAIL. We have found that local retail establishments are having difficulty retaining employees and competing with new, big-box corporations that are creating an economic imbalance.