The city of Mountain View has ratcheted up its minimum wage to $17.10 this year, keeping the city ahead of the curve in a regionwide push to increase wages for low-income workers.
The automatic raise, which took effect on Jan. 1, brings the minimum wage up by 80 cents from $16.30 in 2021. It's the steepest single-year increase since 2018, when the city's minimum wage jumped from $13 to $15.
The ordinance applies to anyone who works at least two hours per week in Mountain View, and employers cannot include tips toward hourly wages.
The hefty pay bump is tied directly to inflation rates that have soared over the last year, bringing up the cost of everything from gasoline and food to clothing. The minimum wage ordinance is based on the Bay Area's consumer price index (CPI), which city officials say has increased the cost of living by 4.9%.
Mountain View has been in lockstep with Sunnyvale, which also enacted a $17.10 minimum wage this year, putting the pair of cities above nearly all other jurisdictions in the Bay Area. Emeryville still appears to take the title for highest minimum wage with $17.13, which it enacted in July 2021.
Palo Alto's minimum wage is $16.45 this year, followed by Los Altos at $16.40. San Jose, the South Bay's largest city, has slipped behind the smaller suburban cities with a minimum wage of $16.20 for 2022.
Mountain View began its efforts to increase the minimum wage in 2015, adopting the framework for automatic wage increases that still exists today. Prior to that, the city had the state-mandated minimum wage of $9 per hour, which was considered woefully inadequate relative to the high cost of living.
After hitting $15 per hour in 2018, the city began adjusting the minimum wage based on the CPI, which causes it to fluctuate from year to year. Following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the bruising effect it had on the economy in 2020, the city's minimum wage increased by only 25 cents from $16.05 to $16.30 in 2021.
There was a short-lived effort in late 2018 to put the automatic wage increases on pause to let other South Bay cities catch up and provide some relief to businesses reeling from higher labor costs. But the proposal, made by then-Councilman John McAlister, did not receive any support from his colleagues and fizzled out.
In an effort to bolster worker protections and enforce the existing minimum wage laws, the city is also planning to adopt new measures to protect against wage theft. The ordinances would seek to crack down on businesses that fail to comply with minimum wage laws and force them to provide back pay to workers.
California has also increased the statewide minimum wage for 2022 based on the size of the employer. For companies with 26 or more employees, the minimum wage is now $15 per hour, while smaller business with 25 or fewer employees must adhere to a minimum wage of $14 per hour. Since 2016, state law has mandated one-dollar increases in the minimum wage each year until it reaches $15, at which point it will be based on the CPI.