The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the country’s most powerful public sector unions, will file a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15 per hour (from $10.74), which would make it the highest in the U.S. The SEIU wrote the “Minimum Wage Act of 2014,” and is working with a group called the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Many local employers say that a large, sudden jump in the minimum wage would cause them to struggle to make payroll, or to stop hiring new employees. Some say there would be a “ladder effect,” according to the Chronicle, requiring them to give raises to senior employees.
Though businesses with fewer than 100 employees would have a longer period in which to comply, they would have to make incremental increases right away.
There may be considerable public support for the law, despite its likely impact on employment. A recent poll by the Chronicle indicated that 59 percent of local voters support increasing the minimum wage to 15%.
The hike may also enjoy voter support because of public controversy over the rising cost of living in the city, which has pushed some workers and their families to distant suburbs, far from the city’s job opportunities.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September 2013 to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8 to $10 per hour by 2016. At 8.0%, California’s unemployment rate remains one of the nation’s highest, while it loses population to other states, particularly of families unable to find work or to afford the rising cost of living.
While liberal economists blame inequality, conservatives blame restrictive environmental and business codes.