Sonoma City Council considering increasing local minimum wage to $15 per hour

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- This was another picture perfect day in the city of Sonoma, even under overcast skies. It was also a day with a storm brewing tonight.

"I think it is a question of values. Do you want people to live in dignity or poverty," asked Sonoma Mayor Amy Harrington.

Harrington will make that argument Monday night before the Sonoma City Council in proposing that Sonoma should accelerate ahead of California's 2023 deadline for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She does have opposition.

"I think they are doing a feel-good policy based on a broader challenge and taking the easy way out," said John Toulze, President of The Girl and The Fig Restaurant, where all employees already make $15 an hour, except for the service staff.

Waitresses like Kat Huffman, for instance makes $12, but also collects tips.

"You can make $20 an hour, or $30-- or none."

Only the restaurants have complained to the council's proposal. They want a waiver for service employees, also known as a tip credit. The costs add up to a much more than $3 an hour, they say.

"If you add $42 labor cost, 30 percent food cost, and other items, we're making a living, not a killing here," said Saul Gropman, owner of Café La Hay.

"I mean you look at $300,000 to $500,000 dollars when you consider wage compression, unemployment, all that you add on to it," explained Toulze, who feels that the city has forced this on them with little time and less research.

Mayor Harrington justifies the increase by arguing that the cost of living is higher in Sonoma than elsewhere in the state.

Kat Huffman told us she works two jobs.

"Sonoma is an expensive place to live. It's tough."

The restaurants merely ask for time to prepare for that increase-- but on the state's schedule.

"Is this inevitable?" we asked John Toulze.

"Yeah. So is death. Don't speed it up."
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