Many of the Bay Area’s lower paid workers will be carrying around heftier pocketbooks because several cities have raised minimum wages effective Tuesday, including up to $15.65 an hour in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

Most of the cities are trying to move at a faster pace than the state, which is marching toward its goal of $15 an hour by 2023.

Minimum wages at all businesses in California that have 25 or fewer employees will jump from $10.50 an hour to $11 and for all businesses with more than 25 workers the rate will climb from $11 to $12 per hour.

Nine cities around the Bay Area already have hit the $15 target or are slated to reach that on Jan. 1.

They include Mountain View and Sunnyvale, which will be requiring businesses to kick in an extra 65 cents in 2019 for inflation to $15.65 per hour — the highest in Santa Clara County.

An attempt to keep Mountain View’s minimum wage at $15 per hour until 2020 failed early in December. Councilman John McAlister urged his colleagues to skip the inflation adjustment for a year so the city could study the impact of higher wages on local businesses, but they rejected his request.

Workers in Richmond, El Cerrito, San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Cupertino and Santa Clara will all make at least $15 per hour starting Jan. 1 — a jump from current minimums in those cities that range from about $13 to $13.60 an hour. In San Mateo, minimum wage will go to $15 per hour for all jobs except those at 501(C)3-classified nonprofits, which will have a $13.50 minimum wage.

In Belmont, the minimum wage will increase from $12.50 to $13.50 per hour on Tuesday, putting the city on its path to $15 per hour in 2020. Redwood City’s minimum wage will increase from $11 per hour to $13.50 — eventually getting to $15 an hour in 2020.

Oakland’s minimum wage increase will be more modest, from $13.23 to $13.80. That comes in the wake of Measure FF, an initiative passed by voters in November 2014 to provide annual increases to the city’s minimum wage based on the local Consumer Price Index.

As employees struggle with the Bay Area’s very high cost of living, efforts to increase the minimum wage in recent years across the area have found support from worker advocates and many elected officials.

“Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do and helps all Oakland workers,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf in a news release issued in December. “It also supports our local shops and economy when residents earn a respectable wage. As we continue to fight the cost of living crisis in our region, raising the minimum wage is the morally responsible thing to do.”

But some business owners say even minimal wage increases can be challenging, especially in low-margin restaurant and retail businesses, and they question whether they’ll help workers as much as politicians say.

Konan Pi, who has expanded his restaurant, HOM Korean Kitchen across three locations in San Jose, Redwood City and Santa Cruz in the last three years, said the rising minimum wages in San Jose and Redwood City this year will be burdensome. He’ll have to raise menu prices in the next few days to help absorb the cost, but that worries him.

“I don’t know how much more people can stomach raising the costs,” he said. Most of his employees already make more than the minimum wage — some as much as $20 per hour — but now new hires and trainees, which account for about 20 percent of his workforce, will need to be paid more too.

Even for his employees making well above minimum wage, the cost of living is so steep that a bigger help to them would be solving the Bay Area’s extreme housing crisis, Pi said.

“I support people having a sustainable income,” Pi said. “But I have people making $20 an hour and they’re struggling to pay rent — I don’t think the minimum wage is addressing the concerns.”


(c)2019 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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