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SF’s minimum hourly wage to increase to $14 this weekend

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People carry green and yellow balloons during a rally celebrating the anticipated increase of minimum wage to $14 in San Francisco on Tuesday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco’s minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour on Saturday, continuing the scheduled increases of a voter-approved measure that will lead The City to have one of the highest minimum wages in the country at $15 next year.

While recent studies show conflicting results on the impact of these increases, members of the Workers Rights Community Collaborative emphasized the importance to push for the continual rise of a living wage at a news conference Tuesday.

“We know that in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country, that $14 isn’t enough,” said Lucia Lin, from the Chinese Progressive Association. “We know that many people in our communities can no longer afford to live in the city that they work.”

San Francisco voters passed Proposition J in 2014 to increase the minimum hourly wage from $10.74 to $15 over four years, a compromise negotiated between a coalition of labor interests and business interests by Mayor Ed Lee. The measure passed with 77 percent approval.

Evelin Alfaro, from the worker-run cleaning collective La Colectiva, spoke at the news conference about living in a community that often has to choose between survival and being present for their families.

“People are having to choose, do I work these multiple jobs and have enough money to feed my family and survive, or do I choose to spend time with my family?” Alfaro said. “So people are really losing out on being able to spend time with their family.”

Alfaro rents a home in the Excelsior with several family members who have to work more than one job to stay afloat. She works as a housekeeper along with being a community organizer to educate others in her industry of their rights.

“Regardless of where you work, or if you’re undocumented, you have a right to the minimum wage and you have a right to ask for it,” Alfaro said.

Conflicting studies focused on Prop. J, however, raise questions on the effect the increase will have on small businesses.

A study from the Harvard Business School released in April showed that minimum wage increases in the Bay Area disproportionately affect businesses with a Yelp rating of 3.5 stars or lower. For every $1 the minimum wage is raised, it leads these businesses to experience a 14 percent increase in likelihood of shutting down.

“Our study implies that as labor costs increase with minimum wage hikes, restaurants with poor ratings — which are already more likely to close — may be the ones that get pushed over the edge,” wrote Dara Lee Luca, one of the study’s researchers from Mathematica Policy Research, in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.

A separate study conducted at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found more encouraging results for workers. Twenty-three percent of San Francisco’s workforce would receive a raise under Prop. J, and of that population 71 percent are people of color, the study found.

The study also described the impact on operating costs and consumer prices as “modest.”

“Initially, you’re going to have some impact on certain business not keeping the same number of employees and being able to have the revenue to keep bumping up employees’ salaries,” said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of public policy at the Chamber of Commerce. “But our economy happens to be very strong, I don’t think the $14 increase is impacting the ability of businesses to grow in San Francisco.”

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