[Updated] The Pasadena City Council’s march to a $15 per hour minimum wage in the Crown City steps onward Monday with an extra dollar per hour mandated for lowest wage earners’ paychecks.
The two-tier increase raised wages to $14.25 per hour for employees at companies with 26 or more workers and to $13.25 per hour for smaller companies, with 25 or fewer employees.
Even after three years, local officials and the business community disagree on the impacts of the rising minimum wage.
“We’ve not seen the catastrophe stories that were predicted by some come to fruition,” said Councilmember Victor Gordo last week.
“What we have seen and heard is employees who are now sharing in the prosperity of Pasadena,” Gordo said. “Being in a better position to pay bills, to pay rent, and if not improve, certainly adjust their quality of life.”
But according to the U.C. Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development, the increase of the minimum wage across the state hasn’t been all good news.
The April 2019 study was funded by the California Restaurant Association, an outspoken critic of increasing the minimum wage.
“During a time of sustained economic prosperity, California restaurants have added tens of thousands of new jobs,” the survey reports. “Yet, employment growth in the industry has slowed due to the rising minimum wage. Over time, this slower growth will lead to thousands fewer jobs being created.”
Even though the minimum wage has increased by some 50 percent, from $8 to $12, over six years, the real gain, on average, to minimum-wage restaurant workers translated to only a 4 percent increase in pay, the survey said.
According to Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little, people nowadays aren’t hired to do just one job, but they’re being hired to do one and a half or even two jobs.
“What we’re seeing is more of what we’ve seen in the past, which is fewer employment opportunities, especially at the low end,” Little said. “Folks who are being hired are expected to have more experience and skills. If are you going to pay that much money, you want somebody who can actually do the job when they start.”
The movement for a $15 per hour minimum wage began in 2016 and became part of the mayoral campaign between candidates Terry Tornek and Jacque Robinson.
Restaurant owners fearing the impact on their business favored the slower state schedule that won’t get to $15 until 2022 and unsuccessfully attempted to convince the City Council to move to that schedule last February during a review of the impacts of the minimum wage on local businesses.
Local businessman Ishmael Trone said he is seeing some business owners working more than their employees to absorb some of the cost.
“Businesses are adjusting all of their budgets right now to accommodate that increase,” Trone said.
This is the fourth minimum wage increase since the City Council passed an ordinance on March 14, 2016, that will ultimately increase the wage to $15 in 2020.
“For the most part, I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do. We’re proud of what we did — we sort of got to the state,” said Mayor Tornek. “We think we were part of what got to the state finally acting.”
“I wish we would have the same kind of effect on the national government, which hasn’t given a minimum wage increase in a long time, the longest time ever in history and is still at $7.25.”