Mountain View to boost minimum wage to $15

Split council commits to phasing in pay hike by 2018

It's official: Mountain View will boost its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the start of 2018 - regardless of whether other regional cities decide to follow its lead.

In a packed meeting Tuesday, City Council members in a 5-2 vote gave their third and final approval to a staggered plan to eventually raise the base wage by nearly 50 percent. By doing so, Mountain View thrust itself in the vanguard -- it's the first South Bay city to fully commit to better align low-end pay with the ever-rising cost of living in Silicon Valley.

According to the plan, the city's minimum hourly wage -- currently $10.30 -- would increase to $11 on Jan. 1, 2016. That rate would continue notching up at the start of each year, to $13 an hour in 2017, and $15 in 2018. From that point on, the city pledged the base wage could continue to rise, depending on the performance of a Bay Area-focused Consumer Price Index.

The decision came after the council heard tales from Mountain View workers who described holding down multiple service jobs as the only way to eke out a living in the area.

Conversely, a smaller group of restaurant owners said they weren't much better off than their employees, trying to survive amid tight margins, fierce competition and rising expenses all around.

With the first wage increase coming in about two months, Tied House marketing director Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez worried the blow would be too much, too soon. As proposed, the wage increase would force the business to cut its 70-person workforce in half, she warned.

"If you raise the minimum wage as quickly as you are, our business will be closed," she said. "I'm struggling just as much as everyone else."

Despite those pleas, it came as no big surprise that the Mountain View council went forward with the minimum-wage increase -- council members had already come out in support of the idea in two earlier votes. The real question of the night was whether elected leaders would delay the roll-out or dilute the wage hike with exceptions and contingencies.

With so-called "carve-outs," the city pondered allowing exceptions for businesses to pay less than minimum wage for certain employee groups, such as those earning tips, trainees or those who are receiving employer-paid benefits such as healthcare. The legality of adding those exceptions was thrown into question, and the council decided to take the matter up as a separate vote.

With a potential conflict of interest as the owner of a Baskin Robbins store, Mayor John McAlister recused himself from the vote on carve-outs, although the city attorney said he was within his rights to vote on the full minimum-wage increase. In the end, the carve-outs were rejected by the council in a 5-1 vote, with Councilman John Inks casting the lone vote in opposition.

Council members explained they wanted to ensure Mountain View didn't become a higher wage "island", putting local businesses at a disadvantage. Up until this point, the recent push in the Bay Area to raise minimum wage has largely been spearheaded by voter-approved ballot initiatives in large cities, such as San Francisco and Oakland.

To varying degrees, several other South Bay cities have expressed support for raising the base wage. As Mountain View's closest ally in the effort, Sunnyvale is expected to soon follow with its own minimum-wage hike. But many other cities are looking to follow the lead of San Jose, which is currently waiting for the results of an independent economic study of raising minimum wage to $15 by 2018. That study isn't expected to be complete until early next year.

Mountain View leaders made clear they didn't want to wait that long, saying the income disparity in the area required quicker action.

"For me, this is a piece of a puzzle where we're trying to solve a lot of socioeconomic issues," said Councilman Chris Clark said. "We're trying to address housing, wages, the whole gamut as best we can."

But a debate broke on whether the council was really unloading its trickiest problems onto small businesses. More than one person pointed out the council seemed inconsistent by using the minimum wage as a tool to lift low-earning workers, yet refusing one week earlier to put the onus on residential landlords by studying limits on rent increases or protections against evictions.

The two issues were fundamentally different, said Councilman Ken Rosenberg.

"They're different in their implication and in their academic studies that support or refute them," he said. "There's too many policy flaws with rent control, but a minimum wage increase, as long as it's not prohibitive, has an economic benefit."

In response, Councilman Lenny Seigel said he would entertain controls on commercial rents as well as residential.

As the council moved to a vote, Mayor McAlister pitched a plan B, urging his colleagues to consider a more gradual wage increase to lessen the impact on businesses. Instead of $15 an hour by 2018, he proposed delaying it to 2020.

"I'm concerned about the economic swing of things and I'd rather have (wages) phased along and not shot up," he said.

But other council members declined to take up that alternative. Making a motion, Councilwoman Pat Showalter pushed ahead with the 2018 schedule. McAlister asked for a contingency that Mountain View would revise its minimum wage schedule if a regional plan emerged among South Bay cities. His motion ended up dying without a second.

In the final vote, the council approved the minimum wage increase in a 5-2 vote, with McAlister and Inks opposed.

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7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Excited to pay $1 for every beer and $2 more for every entree.

28 people like this
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 28, 2015 at 3:03 pm

They raised the minimum wage to $15 in Seattle six months ago. Seattle is still a vibrant city and did not become a howling wasteland. The main difference seems to be that the lowest paid people have an easier time surviving.

21 people like this
Posted by vicino
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 28, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Thank you Lenny, Mike, Chris, Pat and Ken! With more millionaires & billionaires and more homeless or nearly homeless workers here in Silicon Valley than anywhere else in the US, a good raise in the minimum wage was long overdue. Thank you again for taking the lead.

Personally I don't want to dine at restaurants with staff living in trailers and overcrowded housing... no sick days... virtual sweatshop conditions. We can do better. From now on I will only support restaurants in cities with a $15/hr goal. I look forward to moving away from Dubai-like working conditions here in Silicon Valley rather than closer to them.

16 people like this
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm

"Just what struggling low-wage workers need. Another law that prices them out of a job. "

"company will now use machines to do jobs that used to be done by people who have become too expensive to employ."

*see more at the wall street journal:
Web Link

Same thing happened with America's manufacturing jobs, Unions raised the pay and pensions of the employees, and what happened, the jobs went over sea and the middle class is left working at Walmart.

Notice how only Govt jobs are Unionized, they are the only ones that have endless supply of money for there liberal causes. All our liberal politicians in CA are controlled by the Unions. Yes men for whatever they say.

20 people like this
Posted by Community spirit
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 3:29 pm

No one who works full time should have to live in poverty. This measure is an important step towards providing dignity to low wage workers in our community and I applaud the Council's move.

7 people like this
Posted by @Monta Loma
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 4:17 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

13 people like this
Posted by @Waverly Troll
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 28, 2015 at 4:30 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

7 people like this
Posted by @Monta Loma
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

22 people like this
Posted by MV1963
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 28, 2015 at 5:52 pm

MV1963 is a registered user.

City Council of Mtn. View you made a huge mistake. Minimum wage employment is not meant to be carer. These are non skilled positions, minimum education required.
The effects of raising minimum wage will not help. Why? As a long time business owner and operator your decision will have an immediate impact on my business.
Higher workman's comp insurance- In case you didn't know my premiums are based on payroll $$ @ 3.5 % Matching SS payments, CA SDI contributions, paid vacations. So when you raise the minimum wage by a $1 it actually cost the owner $1.38 an HOUR. You can multiply it out @ $11, $13 and $15 X's 420 labor hours a week.
How am I going to absorb this cost, simply I'm not. This Sunday night I am raising my prices by 16%, cutting operating hours and shifts. Projected labor moving forward 310 hrs weekly a cut of 110 hours a week. Now my workers are going to work harder with less help and fewer hours. Not only have you put small business's behind the eight-ball, but you have effectively contributed to inflation that will be skyrocketing soon. Congratulations ! While your on this roll, just go ahead and OK VTA's plan to hijack a dedicated lane on the El Camino....I could go on and on of how dysfunctional our local government is but i have prices to raise.

this is how I'm going to cope with the added cost

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