In a meeting last week at City Hall, local business owners called on Mayor Terry Tornek to form a committee next year to examine the impacts of the minimum wage before it is raised again.
The request was one of three from local restaurateurs who have been upset since the City Council unanimously voted to increase the minimum wage in February 2016.
During the sometimes tense meeting, restaurant owners attempted to call Tornek on the carpet on an alleged promise made after the council began discussing raising the minimum wage.
“We were promised our voices would be heard,” said Michael Hawkins, partner at Green Street Restaurant. “But it went straight to ED TECH,” he said of the council’s Economics, Development and Technology Committee.
“You were heard,” Tornek responded. “You just did not get the result you wanted.”
The owners also called on Tornek to write a letter to the Speaker of the California State Assembly and the President Pro Tem of the State Senate asking them to open a statewide dialogue to consider the unintended consequences of the state’s minimum wage, and a total compensation plan.
Total compensation allows business owners to pay part of an employee’s earnings in an hourly wage, while the rest is made up by tips, commissions or bonuses.
The restaurateurs have been upset since the city passed its minimum wage ordinance that will raise wages to $15 in 2020, without the creation of an ad-hoc committee they claim Tornek promised them. The committee would have been comprised of stakeholders from all sides. But instead of that committee, the issue went to the council committee after several public hearings.
Under the ordinance, the wage increased to $12 on July 1 and will increase to $13.25 next July 1, 2018 for companies with 26 or more employees. Smaller companies will see similar wage jumps in the future. The city will examine the impacts of the pay increase in 2019.
Although local residents have praised the ordinance, business owners say they are already dealing with its impacts.
“No restaurant owners are hiring teenagers this summer,” said Robin Salzer, who owns Robin’s Woodfire BBQ. “The morale among business owners is down.”
Tornek said he sympathized with the owners’ situation but stood by his claim that the business owners had been given a chance to be heard.
“Change is something that happens whether you like it or not,” Tornek said on Thursday. “Our attitude is to try to get ahead of it and work with it.”