NEW YORK – At $14.44 an hour, Emeryville, California has the highest minimum wage in the country. Just two months ago, it was $9.
Growing impatient with Washington’s progress on the issue, cities like San Diego, Chicago and Los Angeles have passed measures to gradually raise the minimum wage past the $10 mark.
But Emeryville, a small city across the bay from San Francisco, didn’t wait. It cranked up salaries for its lowest earners by 60 percent overnight, after an ordinance took effect on July 2.
“What meaning does a minimum wage have, if it’s not a living wage?” asked Emeryville mayor Ruth Atkin. “We should have a living wage.”
Business’s with 55 employees or fewer went to $12.25 an hour in July and will scale up about a dollar an hour per year until 2019.
Chris Hillyard, owner of local coffee shop Farley’s, said 90 percent of his 45 employees earn the minimum wage.
“We can only raise prices a certain percentage before we start to lose customers and, then, it’s a negative overall impact,” Hillyard said. “I know that any small independent business that was considering opening in Emeryville is probably going to have to consider if they are going to go forward with that.”