It was back in 2003 that advocates for low-wage workers successfully campaigned to increase the minimum wage in San Francisco. Voters approved a formula calling for automatic hikes tied to inflation and the cost of living. The outcome has been dramatic, from $8.50 cents an hour in 2004 to $10.24 an hour last year, the highest in the nation. On Tuesday, the rate jumps to $10.55 an hour.
Vice President of the San Francisco Labor Council Conny Ford says workers and the local economy are winners. "You know that those workers turn around and spend that money and it goes right back into the economy, so it helps San Francisco also in our economic growth," she told ABC7 News.
Although the restaurant industry, where thousands of those low-wage workers are employed, sees the rising minimum wage as anything but positive. At Momo's Restaurant across from the Giants ballpark, every employee already makes more than the minimum wage, but the increase means the restaurant might not hire new workers. "Throughout the fiscal year, it'll probably add another $40,000, $50,000 to the existing payroll," Damon Hall said. "It's just harder to meet your bottom line on a month to month basis."
Bill Hermann, an economist at Golden Gate University, says the increase is a job killer, especially for young people with little training. "It eliminates people from getting their foot on that first rung on the ladder, really, and that's the thing that worries me," he said.
Still, those who fought hard for the changes are looking forward to a New Year and new numbers on their paycheck.