Read

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.”

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

gun violence, gun lobby, mass killings, National Rifle Association

Powerful almost by default, and handled with a clear mission at hand and an eye for empathy, "91%" is a call to activist arms.

Oaxaca teacher strikes, Educational Reform, National Coordinator of Education Workers, National Union of Education Workers, Enrique Peña Nieto, student deaths, student disappearances, Nochixtlán blockade, Nochixtlán violence, Popular Assembly of the Peopl

Teachers in southern Mexico are back on the barricades, and once again the state has responded with brute force.

tax avoidance, corporate tax evasion, corporate taxes, job creation

While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates and the rest of us dwell on the latest shooting tragedy, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation’s most destructive issues: tax avoidance.

Abby Martin, Monsanto, World Health Organization, carcinogens

Few corporations in the world are as loathed – and as sinister – as Monsanto, but the threat posed to people and planet could be reaching new heights.

Brexit, Jo Cox, E.U. referendum, Britain Stronger in Europe, Electoral Reform Society, Left Leave, rightwing movements, U.K. xenophobia

Many are calling the U.K.’s European Union referendum vote on Thursday, the most important vote in every British person’s lifetime.

Abby Martin, Monsanto, World Health Organization, carcinogens

Few corporations in the world are as loathed – and as sinister – as Monsanto, but the threat posed to people and planet could be reaching new heights.

Posted 2 days 8 hours ago
Jo Cox, white supremacy, racism, anti-immigrant, Brexit, Tommy Mair, political killings, E.U. referendum

The murder of Jo Cox has shocked British society, sparking renewed discussions about how to deal with racism, hatred, xenophobia and white supremacy just days before the Brexit vote.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Brexit, Jo Cox, E.U. referendum, Britain Stronger in Europe, Electoral Reform Society, Left Leave, rightwing movements, U.K. xenophobia

Many are calling the U.K.’s European Union referendum vote on Thursday, the most important vote in every British person’s lifetime.

Posted 3 days 7 hours ago
Bernie Sanders, political revolution, National Nurses Union, racial inequality, economic inequality, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, Democratic Socialists of America, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative, People and Planet First Budget

Last weekend's People's Summit concentrated on domestic policy and economic inequality, featuring spirited debates, discussions and workshops that tried to chart the path ahead for America's new left.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Hawaii GMOs, anti-GMO movement, genetically engineered crops, Syngenta, Monsanto, Earthjustice

Most people know Hawaii for its beautiful beaches, world-class surfing and delicious Kona coffee, but the islands are also ground zero for GE crops – and last week various counties were in court to defend themselves against them.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
gun violence, gun lobby, mass killings, National Rifle Association

Powerful almost by default, and handled with a clear mission at hand and an eye for empathy, "91%" is a call to activist arms.

Bernie Sanders, political revolution, National Nurses Union, racial inequality, economic inequality, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, Democratic Socialists of America, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative, People and Planet First Budget

Last weekend's People's Summit concentrated on domestic policy and economic inequality, featuring spirited debates, discussions and workshops that tried to chart the path ahead for America's new left.

prison-industrial complex, jail leasing, high incarceration rates, Prison Policy Initiative, prison privatization, criminal justice reform

A recent report on “jail leasing” exposes the extent of a practice that harms prisoners and raises ethical questions about public institutions profiting off incarceration.

Jo Cox, white supremacy, racism, anti-immigrant, Brexit, Tommy Mair, political killings, E.U. referendum

The murder of Jo Cox has shocked British society, sparking renewed discussions about how to deal with racism, hatred, xenophobia and white supremacy just days before the Brexit vote.

Hawaii GMOs, anti-GMO movement, genetically engineered crops, Syngenta, Monsanto, Earthjustice

Most people know Hawaii for its beautiful beaches, world-class surfing and delicious Kona coffee, but the islands are also ground zero for GE crops – and last week various counties were in court to defend themselves against them.