A question on San Francisco’s November ballot will ask city residents whether they want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2018.
The city already has the highest big-city minimum wage at $10.74, mainly thanks to the fact that it increases with inflation. And in California, tipped workers such as waiters or taxi drivers have to get the full minimum wage, instead of the lower tipped minimum wage of $2.13 at the federal level, so they will share in the raise. The ballot measure would increase the minimum wage to $11 by January 2015 and gradually increase every year until hitting the $15 level.
The higher wage is meant to be one way to address rising income inequality in the city and the growing cost of living. The area’s tech boom has created a divide between Silicon Valley workers and the growth in low-wage jobs for everyone else.
San Francisco’s move also comes after Seattle struck an agreement to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of a decade. A town surrounding Seattle’s airport had already passed a $15 minimum wage, although it is currently being fought over in the courts. Chicago and New York City are also considering a $15 wage. That particular number was put on the national radar by striking fast food workers, who have staged a series of walk outs across the country to demand that higher pay.
While some worry that higher minimum wages will cost jobs or economic growth, San Francisco residents are likely unconcerned. The city’s experience with having the country’s highest wage has been positive. It was the city with the greatest growth in small business employment over the last year. In the seven years after it increased its wage, employment grew by more than 5 percent while falling in nearby counties and restaurant job growth grew faster, increasing by 17.7 percent.
The same has happened at the state level. Washington state has had the highest minimum wage and topped all others for small business job growth. Overall job growth has stayed steady at an 0.8 percent rate, higher than the national one. A comprehensive look at state-level wage hikes over the last two decades didn’t find any clear evidence that they affected job creation.