Menlo Park's downtown employers adapt to new minimum wage law | News | Almanac Online |

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Menlo Park's downtown employers adapt to new minimum wage law

 
A pedestrian walks past Cheeky Monkey Toys in Menlo Park on Jan 8. Businesses like Cheeky Monkey will now have to pay their employees $15 an hour as of Jan. 1. (Photo by Sammy Dallal/The Almanac.)

With the implementation of Menlo Park's new $15-an-hour minimum wage ordinance on Jan. 1, The Almanac asked local businesses what impacts, if any, they were experiencing.

The new ordinance is intended to accelerate the state's plan to raise worker salaries statewide to a minimum of $15 by Jan. 1, 2023. The new state minimum wage for 2020 is $12 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees, and $13 an hour for employers with 26 or more employees.

Menlo Park's minimum wage will rise in future years based on annual inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, and will be capped at 3%. The ordinance applies only to businesses located within the geographic boundaries of incorporated Menlo Park; unincorporated areas are not subject to the law.

Of 15 downtown businesses along Santa Cruz Avenue that The Almanac canvassed, only three confirmed that employee wages would be affected by the city's new ordinance: Cheeky Monkey Toys, Susie Cakes and Juban Yakiniku House.

Anna Chow, owner of Cheeky Monkey Toys, said it is too early to know how the ordinance would affect business.

"I mean, we've done our budgeting but ... (we're) only a week into the new year. It's too early to tell the full impact," she said.

She noted, however, that the business had preemptively stopped hiring employees under 18 years old.

"We put that in place just to reflect their experience level and maturity level with the new minimum wage," she said.

Michael Mai, kitchen manager at the Japanese restaurant Juban Yakiniku House, said that up until now, the business has offered the state minimum wage to servers, plus tips, while kitchen staff have already earned $15 an hour. Now all employees will be guaranteed at least $15 an hour.

Carol Cirilli, general manager at Susie Cakes, said that a bigger challenge for the business' success than a minimum wage increase, which was planned for in the store's budget, is "days like today." The bakery had no customers at the time of The Almanac's visit.

Fortunately, she said, while some "disruptive" delivery services like Amazon have harmed small retail businesses, those that help deliver food have proved beneficial. Businesses like DoorDash and Postmates have enabled the bakery to offer delivery services to their customers and can increase demand. The presence of large nearby businesses also generates demand for catering services, she added.

Other downtown employees say they haven't been affected by the minimum wage ordinance because they already earn more than $15 an hour.

Salons are typically run with independent contractors who set their own rates, and all charge more than $15 an hour, said Delia Snyder at the hair salon HumaniQ. The manager at Touch of Elegance salon said that the ordinance would not impact that business either.

A worker at Mr. Green Bubble, a new boba shop at 604 Santa Cruz Ave., said that the business has another franchise location in the East Bay where the minimum wage had already risen to $15 an hour, so they were prepared.

Rachel Schroeder at Goodwill Boutique said that the business has paid $15 an hour for about six months.

Some others interviewed for this story said they don't think that $15 an hour is enough.

Lana Keyhan at Ruby Living, a furniture store, said she thinks that something closer to $20 was fair. Noting that $15 an hour is the earning before taxes, she conducted some preliminary calculations on a calculator before looking up and asking, "How can you live (on that)?"

Other operations with less traditional business models also weighed in. The Discovery Shop, which supports the American Cancer Society, is led by Kerry O'Donnell and runs primarily on volunteer labor, with only two full-time staffers.

O'Donnell said she doesn't think $15 an hour is high enough, but added, "I think it's going to help."

Does the tight labor market affect the shop's supply of volunteers willing to work for free?

"We have good luck," O'Donnell said, adding that people come to the shop to volunteer while job searching, or looking for a more flexible schedule. For instance, she said, one volunteer began working at the shop while she was undergoing physical therapy.

Under the new ordinance, employees can file a complaint with the city about any business not in compliance. People who suspect noncompliance may contact Assistant City Manager Nick Pegueros at (650) 330-6619 or nmpegueros@menlopark.org.

Has your business been impacted by the city's new minimum wage ordinance? Let us know by emailing kbradshaw@almanacnews.com.

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