With California's Minimum Wage Set to Rise, Business Owners Still Peddling Fear

Search form

With California's Minimum Wage Set to Rise, Business Owners Still Peddling Fear

With California's Minimum Wage Set to Rise, Business Owners Still Peddling Fear
Wed, 12/18/2013 - by Joseph Mayton

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – In the early morning hours, Solomon rises from bed and makes his way from Daly City, a San Francisco suburb, into the city. He has a 7am shift at Panda Express in the financial district. For five hours he works the food line, mixing sauces with chicken, beef and tofu for a quick Chinese-American meal. He makes minimum wage, and when his shift ends he quickly gets on a bus where he sits for almost an hour to make it to his next gig at an upscale restaurant in the Peninsula.

“It is tough days, but if I want to save any money and get my life in order, I have to work two jobs constantly just to cover rent, bills and put something away for next month,” he said. Ten-hour days are common for Solomon, who has moved from minimum wage job to minimum wage job over the past few years as he attempts to save money and enroll in technical training to become a security guard in the city, where he would earn $26 an hour.

“It is what I want to do, but the training program costs a lot of money and I just can’t afford it on one job,” he admitted.

In September, California passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in the state to $10 an hour by 2016. The bill generated controversy and antagonized the restaurant industry especially. "This is the time to raise the minimum wage to provide relief for hard-working families," said the bill's author, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), commenting that about three out of five minimum-wage earners in the state are 26 or older.

Labor unions lobbied heavily for the bill, both in the legislature and at the governor's office. Business groups opposed it, and leading the charge were restaurant owners and their general managers who argued that raising the minimum wage would hurt their business and injure the workforce.

A director of a Bay Area restaurant and café chain, who preferred not to be named, admitted better living wages are needed, but argued the increase in the minimum wage would do more harm than good for those who work in the restaurant business.

“It is a tough business today, and to increase by a dollar next year the minimum wage will put workers in danger of losing their jobs, because we won’t be able to afford the increase,” he told Occupy.com in what has become an oft-discussed argument by business owners who oppose a higher minimum wage. The restaurant director said instead the state should consider allowing restaurants to pay servers even less than minimum wage – like the majority of American states – in order to cover costs.

“I have a hard time paying people more when they don’t claim all their earnings," he added. "It doesn’t seem fair that a server at a top restaurant is making some $30 an hour and not claiming it all, while someone at McDonald’s or WalMart is being forced to claim everything.”

But economists suggest there is no evidence that an increase in minimum wage at restaurants hurts business. In a number of recent studies, including one conducted by Harvard University economists, a cost increase of only $0.10 to $0.25 on the most popular menu items could offset worries by employers that a raised minimum wage would adversely affect business.

And customers, from fast-food chains to upscale fine-dining, seem more and more willing to pay for the wage increases. California’s labor unions pointed to these findings, arguing that the fear-mongering of business owners doesn’t fit the facts.

“We are a state that is forward-thinking and full of promise, and this wage increase will help to ensure that we can help get many people out of poverty and begin to really have good lives. It is the right step at the right time,” said John Iglatius, a Filipino labor economist and strategist who has worked for better labor rights over the past three decades in the Bay Area.

For Solomon and so many like him, the potential impact of a wage increase needs no explaining.

“I work about 60 hours a week on average, so to increase my hourly rate by a dollar would be huge. It means I will be bringing home at least another $200 a month most likely, and that will go a long way for me,” Solomon said.

But with California's business community continuing to push a campaign of fear over higher wages across the state, the coming increase may meet new challenges — especially if restaurant owners' fears are realized in the form of layoffs.

“I don’t know what we will do at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of restaurants forced to cut back a few workers here and there," argued the Bay Area restaurant director. "If that happens, I could see a major change in policy.”

Article Tabs

tar sands, tar sands bikeride, carbon emissions, bitumen, The Road to Athabasca, Trans Mountain Pipeline

Through discovery of place, through story, and through personal connection with people along the way, we are journeying 1,100 miles to the tar sands of Alberta – and are asking for your support in our venture.

non-violent drug offenses, Million Dollar Blocks

"I tell you what, I wish instead of spending so much money on [incarcerating people], they'd come fill some of these crater holes behind my house."

kayaktivists, Shell protests, Fennica, Arctic oil drilling

Dozens of kayaktivists took to the water to block Shell's Fennica ice breaker from leaving port, while a group of 13 climbers rappelled off a bridge in Portland, Oregon, with enough supplies to last days if needed.

Samuel DuBose, Ray Tensing, police killings, police brutality, police violence, indicted officers

Prosecutors said officer Ray Tensing “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was pulled over for a missing front license plate.

Frackanpada, anti-fracking movement, fracking bans, anti-fracking camp, fracking resistance, Fracking Ez, Basque anti-fracking movement

“This is the first time fracking activists have got together on this scale internationally – from Kurdistan to Brazil, from Ukraine to Portugal and Algeria," says Catriona of Ireland, who attended the recent Frackanpada.

bank bailouts, fraudulent bank practices, mortgage backed securities, illegal foreclosures, Lanny Breuer, Eric Holder, FDIC, securitized loans, due process, whistleblowers, robosigning, mortgage fraud, revolving door

"The system is largely gamed, broken and corrupted by money, influence peddling and a revolving door."

Posted 5 days 1 hour ago
Black Lives Matter, pepper spray cops, Cleveland police incidents, police brutality, police violence, Ferguson protests, Baltimore protests

The incident occurred Sunday during protests against the arrest of a 14-year-old.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago
Black Lives Matter, racial injustice, economic injustice, Tia Oso, Patrisse Cullors, white supremacy, Ku Klux Klan, #BernieSoBlack

The recent Black Lives Matter protest at the Netroots Nation conference was a teachable moment for everyone – forcing progressives to pick a side as they shape next year's electoral agenda.

Posted 5 days 1 hour ago

Being sick and having nowhere to turn is terrorizing far too many Americans – as medical fraud, huge price markups and pharmaceutical copyright laws are contributing to growing illnesses and early death.

Posted 3 days 1 hour ago
Endangered Species Act, animal protections, Federal Land Freedom Act, Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, National Defense Authorization Act, Common Sense in Species Protection Act, Clean Energy Act

A spate of bills attached with riders are moving through Congress that would dismantle the historic law by transferring authority from the federal level to the states – inaugurating an era of unrestrained development.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago
bank bailouts, fraudulent bank practices, mortgage backed securities, illegal foreclosures, Lanny Breuer, Eric Holder, FDIC, securitized loans, due process, whistleblowers, robosigning, mortgage fraud, revolving door

"The system is largely gamed, broken and corrupted by money, influence peddling and a revolving door."

economic inequality, wealth inequality, income inequality, $15 an hour, Fight for $15, worker strikes, worker occupations, Taft-Hartley Act, Communist Party USA, McCarthyism, fast-food workers

The Oakland-based activist and performer says workers need to look beyond city councils and form a radical new labor movement – through strikes, stoppages and occupations of the workplace.

This week, Aaron Draper invites you to see the humanity in the homeless via external flashes and light boxes. Next, Congress is peddling poison and wants to keep you in the DARK.

Frackanpada, anti-fracking movement, fracking bans, anti-fracking camp, fracking resistance, Fracking Ez, Basque anti-fracking movement

“This is the first time fracking activists have got together on this scale internationally – from Kurdistan to Brazil, from Ukraine to Portugal and Algeria," says Catriona of Ireland, who attended the recent Frackanpada.

Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, corporate trade deals, U.S. Business Coalition for TPP, corporate lobbying, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, fast track authority, Fast Track Promotion

Washington lobbying by companies and groups involved in global trade boomed in the past nine months.

Sign Up