City, community work to iron out minimum wage ordinance | August 28, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - August 28, 2019

City, community work to iron out minimum wage ordinance

by Kate Bradshaw

A small gathering of people from the business, labor and public health communities met with city staff Aug. 22 to talk through the logistics of how a minimum wage ordinance might work in Menlo Park.

As currently drafted, an ordinance, if passed by Oct. 10, could result in a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour that would take effect by Jan. 1, 2020. It could also rise in accordance with the Consumer Price Index in the future.

It's tentatively scheduled for possible adoption at the City Council's Sept. 10 meeting.

A few questions came up:

What about tipped employees?

According to Menlo Park's Assistant City Attorney Cara Silver, under state law, cities cannot regulate the tips employees receive. In other cities where minimum wage ordinances have passed, restaurants and other industries that rely on tips have added minimum wage surcharges instead.

What about independent contractors?

According to Nick Pegueros, assistant city manager, the ordinance would apply to wage earners paid by employers in Menlo Park — and specifically to incorporated Menlo Park. As a result, the regulation wouldn't apply to unincorporated San Mateo County businesses such as those on Alameda de las Pulgas in West Menlo Park.

What about minors who work?

Dexter Chow, owner of Cheeky Monkey Toys, said that his business employs high school students, and if a minimum wage ordinance passes, the business could be required to jump from a minimum wage of $11 an hour to $15.

"It's a big jump," he said.

Wage pressure could also be combined with tariffs on toys from China come December. Tariffs are anticipated to affect the "vast majority of products" at the store, and staying price-competitive with national and online retailers that don't have minimum wage pressures could put the business at a disadvantage, he argued.

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Fran Dehn said she's spoken with local business owners who say they'd like to pay $15 an hour but can't afford to do that, and say they may end up cutting back employee hours.

According to data from the San Mateo County Health System, while there are some minors in low-wage jobs, about 95% of low-wage workers in the county are in the middle years of their careers, between the ages of 18 and 64, and nearly 45% are raising children.

With a $15 minimum wage, or earnings of about $31,200 a year, it would take about 1.7 full incomes to pay for the average rent of $4,368 at a large apartment building in the city.

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