April 16, 2024

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San Diego employers say California's $20 minimum wage for fast food workers will impact customers – NBC 7 San Diego

San Diego employers say California's $20 minimum wage for fast food workers will impact customers – NBC 7 San Diego

On April 1, the “express” will come at a higher price.

A new California law will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour, and employers say having to pay their workers more will be passed on to the customer.

Food chains such as McDonald's, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Jack in the Box plan to raise menu prices to compensate for the requested wage increase. Other food company owners said they will have to do the same to keep up.

“Even baby meat, everything, the price will go up because of this,” said Brady Farmer, owner of Chef Bradley Cook Catering Services.

As a small business owner, he's not required to increase his minimum wage, but he said he wants to do the right thing by his employees and doesn't want them to leave. He also said covering that extra land will add up.

“Imagine the guy who has to go out and do this 10-hour task of shopping, organizing and driving,” he said. “You get $20, $40, $50, $100, or $200 extra every day.”

The wage increase will also be accompanied by job cuts.

“Our cost of living is rising so fast we can't catch up,” said Kim Phan, co-owner of Crab Hut.

Phan has co-owned the Crab Hut on Convoy Street since 2007.

“I remember when we first opened the price of a pound of crawfish on our menu was $8.99, and this year it's $23 to $24 a pound, depending on the season,” she said.

Fan said the minimum wage increase is actually a fair race against inflation and everyone loses. She also said before you think this pushback is about all bosses being greedy, “I think everyone deserves to have a healthy living wage,” Phan concluded. “But at the same time, we have to review and look at the big picture because we have increased the minimum wage over the last few years and it has not helped anyone.”

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When it goes into effect April 1, fast food workers in California will receive the highest guaranteed base pay in the industry. The state's minimum wage for all other workers — $15.50 an hour — is already among the highest in the United States.

Instead of increasing the wage, Farmer came up with another idea.

“Start using some government money for good,” he said. “Start using it for people and give it back to people so they can do good.”

For a fast-food location to be needed to give this increase, a company must have at least 60 locations across the country, excluding restaurants that make and sell its own bread, such as Panera Bread. Any employee who has not been paid the minimum wage can file a lawsuit with the Labor Commissioner.

Currently, fast food workers in California earn an average of $16.60 per hour, or just over $34,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's lower than California's poverty measure for a family of four, a statistic calculated by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Equity that takes into account housing costs and publicly funded benefits.

The new $20 minimum wage is just a starting point. The law creates a fast food board with the authority to increase that wage each year through 2029 by 3.5% or the change in the U.S. Consumer Price Index averages for urban wage earners and clerical workers, whichever is less.