Minimum wage breaks $10 barrier in San Francisco

Examiner file photoWorking hard for the money: Advocates of a higher minimum wage say it’s a “psychological boost” to workers to break the $10-an-hour mark.

San Francisco will become the first location in the nation to have a minimum wage higher than $10 after the hourly rate increases by 32 cents on Jan. 1.

For charts detailing the yearly rise in minimum wage in San Francisco and its rank atop the numbers of other U.S. cities, click on the photo to the right.

Minimum wage in The City has increased each year automatically according to inflation since San Francisco voters in November 2003 approved the minimum wage law Proposition L. The measure was placed on the ballot through a signature-gathering campaign.

At the time, the proposition was opposed by business advocates, but voters approved it by nearly 60 percent of the vote. Since then, The City has passed other business mandates that include mandatory sick leave and health care.

In January, San Francisco minimum wage workers will earn $10.24 per hour, the first time in the nation that the baseline wage has hit the double digits, according to a recent study from the Employment Policies Institute. The rate in California is $8 per hour.

“For a lot of workers, it’s a psychological boost to finally break $10 an hour,” said Karl Kramer, campaign co-director of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition.

Kramer refuted claims that San Francisco’s minimum wage slows down job growth. He said that paying these types of workers — such as nonunion retailers and restaurant employees — a wage that keeps up with inflation boosts the local economy.

“When workers have more money in their pockets, they spend it in the local economy,” Kramer said. “So we see more job growth.”

Jim Lazarus, public policy director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, suggested the wage increase could have the unintended consequence of “a capping of economic activity and hiring” during the tough economy.

While The City has seen economic gains, the unemployment rate has long hovered around 9 percent. On Nov. 18, the Mayor’s Office said that since January, unemployment dropped from 9.5 percent to 8.1 percent.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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