Palo Alto set to move ahead with minimum-wage hike

Proposed law mirrors recent efforts in Mountain View, Sunnyvale

Following in the footsteps of its neighbors in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, Palo Alto is preparing to adopt a new law raising the local minimum wage to $10.30 per hour.

The City Council's Policy and Services Committee is scheduled to consider an ordinance on April 28 that would institute a base minimum wage of $10.30, with an annual adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index, as established by the U.S. Department of Labor. If approved by the committee, the proposed ordinance would go to the full council for adoption.

The proposed ordinance stemmed from a February memo from Councilmen Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Tom DuBois and Cory Wolbach. The memo cited the high cost of living in Palo Alto and recent efforts in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose to update their respective wage requirements.

"Our lowest wage workers perform valued services in Palo Alto and often have to work multiple jobs with long commutes to barely make ends meet," the memo stated. "A local minimum wage increase would be a modest step in supporting these workers who are vital to maintaining the services we value and that are essential to our local economy."

The law that the committee will consider closely mirrors the ordinances that Mountain View and Sunnyvale adopted last year and the one that San Jose approved in 2012. All three set minimum wage at $10.30, with increases based on the Consumer Price Index (San Jose's was initially raised to $10, and is now at $10.30).

Under the proposal, Palo Alto would contract out enforcement to San Jose's Office of Equality Assurance. According to a report from the office of City Attorney Molly Stump, Palo Alto officials have reached out to San Jose, which expressed willingness to handle "early enforcement functions such as initial complaint intake and investigation and informal resolution complaints."

The ordinance would take effect 31 days after the council adopts it on a second reading. It would require employers to post notices at their workplaces of current and prospective minimum wage raises and employees' rights under the local law. It would also require employers to maintain payroll records for four years and provide his/her name, address and telephone number in writing to each employee at the time of hire, according to a report from Stump's office.

The new ordinance would also empower employees to pursue a civil action to recover back wages and authorize the city to levy finds, hold administrative hearings and seek injunctive relief against employers that don't comply.

Despite its famously high cost of living, Palo Alto currently doesn't have a local minimum-wage ordinance. Workers are currently bound by the state minimum wage of $9 per hour, which is set to increase to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.

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18 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Many minimum wage jobs are in retail. Council has said they want to preserve retail. Retail businesses are leaving Palo Alto because (1) costs to operate are too high (eg. rent), and (2) not enough customers to make up for the costs.

How does the city council think that raising the minimum wage will make it easier for retail to remain in our city. The type of retail that can absorb the minimum wage increase are those of chain stores.

This is a politically correct vote by city council members, and not well thought out.

By the way, the city has a bunch jobs, mostly part time that pay the current minimum wage - why aren't they proactively raising the pay for these positions ahead of passing the ordinance?

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2015 at 7:55 pm

This is a sure fire way to get rid of the remaining small mom and pop style retail and restaurants in Palo Alto.

The only ones that will be able to survive paying more to their employees are chains.

Also, we are going to find that our grocery stores, restaurants, etc. will employ less minimum wage employees so we can also wave goodbye to good service in our supermarkets and restaurants.

Our grocery lines will be longer due to less checkout clerks and it will take longer to get a table cleared or water filled into our glasses in a restaurant.

The theory is grand, the practice will prove to be less minimum wage jobs in Palo Alto.

6 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm

It would be great to see a similar effort aimed at reducing the cost of living. $10.30 an hour still doesn't get anyone very far on the Peninsula. (Frankly, I don't think many retailers were paying less to begin with.)

If you weren't around to purchase 20 years ago, your biggest cost of living on the Peninsula is housing. More affordable housing would help. More market-rate housing would help.

11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Unbelievable comments from the residents of such a rich city!

Waiters/waitresses don't even get minimum wage because the govt. expects them to get tips. So their "minimum" is something like $2.13 an hour!

Where are the official objections to all the city employees making over $200,000 who get housing allowances, car allowances, pensions, benefits, over-time pay, etc. etc. while making you haul your own trash??

Where are the objections to the big box stores like Wal-Mart sticking the taxpayer with the tab for under-paying their workers to the tune of $1,000,000 per store for housing assistance, food stamps, etc. etc. while outsourcing US jobs to overseas sweatshops?

No objections to the big Menlo Park Safeways automating all the clerks out of their jobs by making you do your own check out.

What's "market rate housing" -- a $1.500,000 condo? a $3,000 apartment?? -- and how would that help the lowest paid workers??

4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 16, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Downtown worker says "(Frankly, I don't think many retailers were paying less to begin with.)"

Ask your Nordstrom's shoe clerk how much his/her salary is. It's NADA. Bupkis. Zilch.

They're all on commission now. And their commission income has dropped drastically because most of what they're doing is processing online orders you're returning to the stores.

So the next time you're wondering why your favorite clerk is gone or the service has gotten so bad, give it some thought.

Retail has traditionally classified clerks as "managers" to get out of paying them over-time. Only in Palo ALto do we pay city employees earning big salaries over-time while complaining about raising the minimum wage!

5 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 17, 2015 at 4:10 am


We do need pay increases for people that are near minimum wage.

City council move is good.

Employers do have to squeeze their costs/expenses. But, you are helping to live a life while working.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 17, 2015 at 9:57 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

1: Tipped employees in California must be paid at least minimum wage in addition to tips.

2: Nordstrom employees have a base wage if they don't meet their sales threshold, so they are guaranteed minimum wage or a bit more. The top nordstrom sellers make >$300k a year on commission. One thing @Online Name has right, is that when someone decides to abuse the generous Nordstrom return policy, the commission gets deducted from the sales person.

5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 17, 2015 at 11:34 am

$10.30 minimum wage is high? Not till you tried to live on it.

2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Slow Down, are you sure about that?

A cousin who'd formerly managed a branch of Gucci told me he got an offer from Nordsrom's and that it was straight commission. If he thought he could have made, $300,000 he would have taken it but discussions with other sales people convinced him that the $300K potential earnings was just a come-on. The pay you're describing may be a base salary against which the commissions are drawn at the start of employment, not a real on-going salary/wage.

Also, when I was complaining about how the store stocked very few of the styles on the web site, several sales clerks agreed and urged me to write to Bart Nordstrom's and complain because they were no longer selling and were mainly processing the return of several styles in multiple sizes.

2 people like this
Posted by Surefire
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2015 at 1:50 pm

A "Magical Wage" ordinance just shows weak thinking, bad policy, poor planning.

No real ultimate objectives stated.
No objectives in terms of outcomes proposed.
No plan to measure outcomes objectively.

Retail will start closing faster. Already in works of course.
Employers will be sued.
Huge transaction costs, economic "inefficiencies."

Government dictated wage and price levels cause of original problem in non-taxed health benefits used to compete for workers caused irrational planning and spending in health care markets after WW2

Nixon wage and price controls caused enormous problems in 1970s

Are we to copy Nixon?
Social Engineering by politicians seeking election and cocktail party acceptance generally leads to bad policy, unintended consequences.

Like .....

Like this comment
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm

The problem of minimum wage is that it *never goes down*.

If we are hit by another severe recession the minimum wage will kill business left and right.

Like this comment
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm

The City of Palo Alto's policy is throw more money at the issue and it will fix everything. Guess it's easy to ask others ( small business) to do the same but unfortunately we don't have the deep pockets of Palo Alto city government. Maybe Keenan and his overpriced dysfunctional management staff and city council might want to do a better job managing their own employees before sticking their noses in managing ours.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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