Minimum Wage tops $10 per hour

Photo Credit: Photo credit: AP

Come January first, minimum wage workers in San Francisco will move to $10.24/hour...making it the first minimum wage in the country to exceed the $10/hour mark.

That's more than $2 above the California minimum wage...and nearly $3 more than the working wage set by the federal government.

"It's a psychological boost," said David Frias in a story posted by Newsday. He works two minimum-wage jobs to squeak by in one of the most expensive cities in an usher at a movie theater and a security guard for a crowd control firm.

"It means that I'll have more money in my wallet to pay my bills and money to spend in the city to help the economy," he added.

San Franciscans passed a proposition in 2003 that requires the city to increase the minimum wage each year, using a formula tied to inflation and the cost of living.

Karl Kramer of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition said in the article that a decent wage for a single adult without children in the city would be $15, and that doubles when you have at least one child or more. But like other advocates of better wages, he's still pleased that San Francisco will be the first in the nation to top $10.

"It helps workers' morale in a time of economic crisis; they feel that they're able to tread water and get some relief from the recession," said Kramer.

While the city is at the forefront of attempting to provide a decent living wage, most employees say it's still not a wage to live on, that the 32-cent hike seems like peanuts. And some employers say it could lead to layoffs by small businesses already forced to pay federal, state and city payroll taxes as well as a slew of other city-mandated taxes.

Daniel Scherotter, chef and owner of Palio D'Asti, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Financial District, said the city's minimum wage hike from $9.92 to $10.24 means that his highest-paid employees -- the waiters who make most of their income from tips -- will see more money in their pockets while his salaried kitchen staff will have to take the hit.

If Scherotter raised menu prices to make up the difference, he'd risk going out of business in this economy.

What the average San Franciscan may not know, he said, is that business owners also must pay another $1.23 to $1.85 an hour per employee for health-care coverage if they don't offer health insurance. San Francisco is also the only city in the state that charges a payroll tax of 1.5 percent; it also mandates nine paid sick days annually per employee.

"So that drives me nuts, that as a chef, I have to cut my kitchen allowance," Scherotter said. "What I pay for a waiter is more than double what Manhattan pays, it's more than double what Chicago pays, and it's four times what Boston pays. And those are ... other big, expensive, pro-labor cities. But I pay what they all pay added together for tipped employees."

Scherotter said the double whammy of recession and wage hikes has led to eight layoffs in his kitchen in the last four years.

What are your thoughts on the $10.24/hour minimum wage in SFO? What do you think of the minimum wage in general? Does it ultimately help low-wage employees...or does it hurt them because businesses are sometimes forced to cut jobs in order to stay in business?