Rise In Minimum Wage Impacts Workers, Businesses
KPBS Roundtable / January 3, 2020
This week, the minimum wage rose $1 an hour in California, on a path to reach $15 an hour in 2023. The pay increase will impact workers and businesses and eventually consumers.
Speaker 1: 00:01 Many workers like those in restaurants are happy with the rise in the minimum wage this week. Some employers are not. Supervisor. Nathan Fletcher has big plans for major improvements to County mental health services in the coming year and San Diego city beat as we knew it is. No more. We'll look at what happened. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.
Speaker 2: 00:32 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:33 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPB as Roundtable today. KPBS reporter Prius are either former San Diego city beat editors, Seth Coombs and Charles Clark who covers County government for the San Diego union Tribune. Well, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at seven 25 an hour since 2009 the longest stretch without a race since the law was enacted in 1938 house Democrats passed a bill in July raising it to $15 an hour. And that was of course D O a and the Republican Senate, but many States including California, are stepping up and press start with a minimum wage increase taking place this week and who's affected by it?
Speaker 3: 01:15 That's right. So companies that have 25 or more employees, their minimum pay level is going up to $13 an hour. Uh, for companies or businesses that have fewer than 26 employees, they are now required to have a minimum wage of $12 an hour. And this is part of a state law that was enacted back in 2017. And ultimately the goal is to get the minimum wage up to that bill that you mentioned that, uh, the Democrats passed in the house and get the California minimum wage at least up to $15 an hour. So it's slowly but surely getting bumped up every year.
Speaker 1: 01:51 And that's happening in a lot of States, right? Not quite half the States, but I think about 20 States where it's slowly trying to edge toward that, that magic $15.
Speaker 3: 02:01 Yeah. They don't want to obviously do this overnight, but you know, even a dollar increase, we're going from a $12 an hour to $13 an hour for those bigger businesses, 11 to 12 for the smaller ones, you know, for, uh, businesses that you know, are really pinching pennies here. They're saying that it's hitting them pretty hard actually.
Speaker 1: 02:20 And we're going to get to that in just a minute, but, um, remind us, when does this all take effect? When does it, you know, gradually get to, uh, the, it's over several years yet,
Speaker 3: 02:30 right? Yeah. So it started in 2017 and that was back when the minimum wage was $10 an hour. And by January 1st of 2023, that's when we're going to see across the board, regardless of the size of your business, uh, the minimum wage will be $15 an hour.
Speaker 1: 02:45 Okay. And you, uh, the law has ever, as we're noting, has been controversial. You interview two business owners for action this week with different takes. First we're going to hear from a Corbyn, O'Reilly, tell us what kind of business he has.
Speaker 3: 02:57 So he has a barbecue, he has a catering business, which he's had for about six years. And then he also opened up a storefront in the college area that's just turned two in November. He started out with about three employees and now I think he's up to about 15. So he's below that 25 employee threshold. So he's going to have to raise his minimum wage to $12 an hour. And so yeah, let's take a listen to it and you to say,
Speaker 4: 03:23 I really, uh, impacts like our bottom line. We have so much like overhead built in around the restaurant. Um, and uh, just any little thing, you know, this adds on, especially if if, uh, you're working a longer event, catering, painting and you know, overtime kicks in as well. Um, so these types of things just kind of weigh down the business,
Speaker 1: 03:46 but not all, uh, folks feel that way. Or in the restaurant business you talk to a, also the owner of Ponce's restaurants who, who is he and how is that different from Corban?
Speaker 3: 03:55 Right, so he owns two Mexican restaurants. One is in Kensington and it's been open for about 50 years. And then they just opened up a second location in Northern San Diego and so all together. Um, so one restaurant has 26 employees, the other one has 31. So either way they're above that 25, uh, employee threshold, so they're going to have to raise their minimum wage up to $13 an hour. But yeah, he definitely had a different point of view from Corbin.
Speaker 1: 04:19 I hear that,
Speaker 5: 04:22 uh, it's going to mean that our employees to make minimum wage get an extra dollar an hour, which is nice because the cost of living in San Diego is really, really high. A lot of folks who work for minimum wage cannot afford to live near where they work. And unfortunately that includes where I run my restaurants.
Speaker 1: 04:38 Well, he segues nicely into my next question, which is that that minimum wage, I mean, even 15 bucks an hour a year, not going to get rich and San Diego on that
Speaker 3: 04:45 well, right? Yeah. I mean, we all know the cost of living here is one of the highest in the country. And I think some, uh, recent studies, I believe it was MIT's living wage calculator found that you have to make $14 and 61 cents an hour for a single person to make ends meet in California. And then that number goes up for a working couple with two children. That number increases to $19 and 48 cents each per hour. So obviously that's higher than what the minimum wage is here. But I think what's interesting and you know, listening to both Corbyn and the guy from Ponce's restaurant is that, you know, essentially, uh, the guy from the Mexican restaurant is saying that, you know, everyone should make a living wage so that they can afford to live closer to their place of work and be able to afford the cost of living. However, Corban on the other hand is like, I'm just trying to keep my doors open here and you know, if, uh, if I have to increase the minimum wage, then I might have to lay people off. And so that's kind of the debate that we end up seeing on the national level between Democrats and Republicans. When it comes to the minimum wage.
Speaker 1: 05:49 Right. And I want to get to more of that in, in a second, but we did talk recently, uh, on the, uh, round table about AB five new California law affecting gay quote gig workers and forcing employers to pay full time wages and benefits and South that impacts many freelance journalists. And how has that impacted cutbacks on a at San Diego city beat, which will get you to more
Speaker 6: 06:10 sure. Uh, you, that was something that I was fearful about, uh, when it was first trying to get through the state legislature and, uh, as we all know, uh, they're trying to basically like they were trying to basically like, um, cut down on like gig gig work and like, you know, kind of combat the gig economy. So like, or there was a lot of people, it was mainly directed towards Uber and Lyft and ride share companies like that. So, but unfortunately there's not the shortchange workers. Sure. Absolutely. Make them employees as opposed to just having them do these gig jobs on the side. And you know, you have like a people with three part time jobs as opposed to like one full time job, the less pay. So as far as you know, how it affected journalists, there are a lot of people who are, I'll give you an example.
Speaker 6: 06:54 Like, so city beat did have weekly columnists, right. And they're happy being freelancers. There's one in particular that wrote for, you know, multiple myriad publications. So her job is directly affected by that because you know, again, she has a weekly column, the city B that's now capped at I believe 32, you know, uh, 32 submissions per year for publication. That's it. Yeah. And you're starting to see the impact of it already. There are people, freelance journalist based in California who are getting these letters from companies that they work for who are based in New York or Arizona or wherever saying we can no longer use you because of this new,
Speaker 1: 07:28 so the, yeah, the law of unintended consequences there. And when you were mentioning a Republicans generally don't favor raising the minimum wage argument is, is jobs will be lost. But the research shows that a, that hasn't been the case has it been a lot of realtime research now in, in various States.
Speaker 3: 07:43 Right. Yeah. And actually looking through all of this research and preparation for this show is kind of hurting my brain because there really isn't, there isn't a lot of, uh, statistically significant, I guess you can say research that backs up those Republican claims that, you know, more jobs will be lost. Um, if we raise the minimum wage to the congressional budget office did do an analysis recently. They hadn't done one since 2014 and they found that raising the minimum wage to the $15 level like the Democrats had proposed nationally, uh, would lift the earnings of 27.3 million workers, they said, but lead to approximately 1.3 million jobs lost. However, you know, each of these studies that I looked at, I really tried to, you know, use a magnifying glass here and see, you know, how can you attribute that exactly to the minimum wage raise. And it was really difficult to do that. Um, one, you know, top journal published a report that said that the minimum wage, you know, hadn't destroyed, destroyed jobs by making workers too expensive. So, um, really it was difficult to find anything that was in my opinion, uh, you know, scientifically, uh, like this is definitely jobs to be
Speaker 7: 08:56 lost. So I think that's what makes it politically confusing when these,
Speaker 6: 08:59 it does seem to be like a, a sort of situation where it does have pros and cons. Right? So, you know, Seattle was one of the first cities that raised their minimum wage. And what they're seeing now is a lot more part time jobs. You know, there's not a lot of people who are working eight hours a day, five days a week. So you're starting to see like a lot more part time jobs, but they're getting paid more. And one of the other tricky things is the, they find that the minimum wage hikes don't, you know, really keep up with inflation or the house of, you know, the, you know, with San Diego's housing costs, you know, going up 2% a year, is that minimum wage going up
Speaker 1: 09:30 to keep up with that? Well, we're out of time on this, but a lots of places across the country and lots more empirical data to go through as we move forward. We're going to move on. Democrats have been rarely seen nor heard on the San Diego board of supervisors over the past quarter century, but Nathan Fletcher is changing that in a hurry after winning a seat by 30 points over Republican body demand in 2018 Fletcher made a number of headlines in his rookie year on the board by pushing a progressive agenda, his central issue, a huge investment in mental health services offered by the County. And Charles, this was a Fletcher's key message during the campaign. Why is he so passionate about this one?
Speaker 7: 10:07 I mean, I think there's obviously a personal level. You just look at his background and [inaudible] he came up, I know his mother actually worked in shelters and things like that, although that focused more on, you know, spouses of domestic abuse and things like that. Uh, but I think more, you know, definitively what he always points to is the severity of the challenges today kind of mandate that we go this direction. You know, we've got to do it because of what's happening in our society in this city and County. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Speaker 1: 10:32 Now there was a big jump in spending a mental health and the budget adopted last year, break down the specifics, more staff positions, more beds.
Speaker 7: 10:39 Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, we saw the budget actually bumped the health and human services budget seven point or 7%. Uh, so that bumps it up to about 2.2 $6 billion, uh, annually. A lot of that focuses on behavioral health services in particular, where they actually had a huge staffing increase, adding 136 positions, a lot of which are at the edge more facility and the psychiatric or the County psychiatric hospital
Speaker 1: 11:04 and Fletcher's big project involve the old County owned building and third Avenue and Hillcrest.
Speaker 7: 11:09 Yeah. So that was kind of the crown jewel. And I think really probably the biggest thing he points to this year that you know, going forward will make the most lasting difference. Uh, you know, he came up with this idea of this property was gonna essentially be turned into luxury condos was kind of the plan. Uh, and instead of what the County has now opted to do is they've partnered with scripts and UC San Diego and they're turning this into a regional health hub, a regional mental health hub in particular. So they'll add 60 psychiatric beds, you know, a litany of services and a toddler things. And they really, a lot of people regard as the game changer. It's like $110 million to $150 million facility.
Speaker 1: 11:43 And it, and it's unusual because it's a cooperative effort. You've got the County and then you've got these, these private [inaudible]
Speaker 7: 11:49 hospitals involved. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And I think if, you know, when you talk to a lot of people, that's probably what's the most encouraging thing about it is, you know, so much of the issues we see now comes from people operating in silos. And here you have the thing where everyone got to the table and they're doing this now going forward. And because, you know, they've generally been very fiscally, the board of supervisors has been very fiscally conservative when it comes to that. The not only the budget but the reserves that they have on hand. Almost hoarding.
Speaker 6: 12:15 Yeah. I often, I often compared Diane Jacob to Scrooge McDuck many times. So,
Speaker 1: 12:21 so it's changing now. Um, the uh, the plans for 2020 regarding mental health initiatives. Fletcher has some other things on tap.
Speaker 7: 12:29 Yeah. So, you know, when I spoke with them a bit, just kind of recapping the year, just given how active it was and kind of looking ahead, you know, he's like, it continues to be mental health is the number one priority, which I think will help here is that that seems to be the universal agreement among board members. You mentioned supervisor Jacob, but I know also similarly noted and now is you know, very open about admitting times have changed. We need to do this. Uh, I mean specifically when you look at what, you know, supervisor Fletcher wants to do, he, he really is looking more at the point of entry, uh, the system. So, you know, he talks a lot about how, you know, police officers are off feeling the first line called when people are in mental health crisis, you really wants to establish kind of far reaching mobile outreach teams as well as add care coordinators who work with a person on an ongoing basis throughout their entirety of their experience in the system. Uh, which that would be huge. And then the other big component which I have a feeling will probably be the most challenging as data sharing as getting hospitals, the County sheriff and all these guys on the same board to share information.
Speaker 1: 13:26 So, you know, we see stories on this, we talk about an on shows like this, but I think the residents, they want to see improvements and positive change. And what impacts do you think if this is all going to work, where are we going to see it in the street level? In the neighborhood level,
Speaker 7: 13:40 right. So you know, I think with these guys where they'll monitor is, you know, looking at homeless counts, people who are actually receiving services. I think the problem with something like this, and probably part of the reason that it's not an appealing election issue for a lot of people that campaign on is, you know, these are longterm solutions. You know, we really aren't going to see the actual, I think dramatic change for many, many years. You know, when you talk to supervisor Fletcher, he talks about, you know, ultimately there's something 2030 40 years down the line. You want to look back on and say, wow, we really changed the game here.
Speaker 1: 14:10 Incrementally changing human behavior. It's a tough, that's a long game and a lifelong game and stuff. Why do you think Nathan Fletcher's been able to comp accomplish so much? The few Democrats we've had here, I really didn't make that kind of impact that we're hearing about.
Speaker 6: 14:24 I think, uh, he, he does have a very Bart bi-partisan kind of, uh, outlook and used to be real. That's what I was just about to point out. Absolutely. Thanks for stealing my thing. No, I was kidding. Uh, no, but he has, uh, he has relationships with, uh, with a lot of people and he really does, you know, care about, uh, you know, I would say slightly more left to progressive issues and I think that he's, he's done a good job in the regard that he's found a way to get, again, a slightly nagging, I wouldn't say
Speaker 7: 14:52 slightly, I fiscally conservative board of supervisors, County board of supervisors that has, you know, been a little tentative about these things. And there was a lot of mistakes that I feel like they had to learn the hard way. I mean there was the, the Hep a and then there's the ongoing issue with the, the County jails. And I think that that, that he kind of maybe edged, you know, in there and just said like, Hey, like this is a good thing. This will help with everything. Right. True. Yeah. And I was going to say I add to that, you know, it was just the changing of the board overall is you add term limits, you know, supervisor Jacobs who, Reza Cox, they have stuff they want to get done in the times ticking here. So when they start thinking about their legacy and things, I think that helps make them more active. And then also it can't be understated. Just the fact that, you know, Fletcher and Jacob in particular kid it off almost instantaneously, I think to everyone's surprise. So,
Speaker 1: 15:37 and Fletcher has some other things besides the, his big [inaudible]
Speaker 7: 15:40 push on a mental health care. Right. So he took over as chair of MTS just in the last few months. So he'll be, you know, very much in the transit fight and kind of the future over what that's gonna look like here in San Diego. He did a lot of things related to the environment. Uh, you know, as far as you know, air pollution standards and things like that. And those will continue to be top issues as well. And then child welfare being one of the biggest that I think we'll probably see more activity on
Speaker 1: 16:03 the election year coming up. We're going to see some more change on the board.
Speaker 7: 16:06 Yeah, we, yeah, we will. So you know, definitively to Cecil change cause two supervisors are termed out supervisor Cox will leave his seat in the South Bay, uh, that seat's going to go to a Democrat. Uh, then Diane Jacob will leave her seat counting. Yes. And that'll probably be Republican again. And that kind of leaves, you know, the big seat being supervisor Kristin gas bar and there's already millions, a lot of money being poured in, you know, in the fight over that swing seat. Unbelievably different though from just curious as to see how Kristen gas bar sort of pivots back to, you know, a more centrist kind of outlook as opposed to when she was running for the house of representatives when she was a little bit more go Trump kind of. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's kind of interesting cause I'm in the sense I'm kind of getting is that she's just frankly not. I think a lot of people, they look at it, you know, you talked to the union guys or whatever. It's like, look, all that's out there, it happened. You can't run from it. And I think instead for her, it's, you know, trying to focus more on those pocketbook issues. Obviously she was really involved in the SANDAG transit fight. I think things like that are probably where you'll see her focus a lot more in trying to skew away from the national conversation.
Speaker 1: 17:12 Well as we've said before, the city government tends to get a lot of the spotlight and Ahmet counties got more money, bigger and a spotlight may be shifting this year. We'll see. Well we're going to move on our next story. Sadly is hardly news 2019 saw the further erosion of local newspapers in America. It's a trend that's been accelerating for almost 20 years since the newspaper revenue model was smashed by the internet. Local papers still do vital reporting. The exposure of Jeffrey Epstein, sex crimes by the Miami Herald is a powerful example. But the demise of local coverage continues with a local example in San Diego city beat and Steph a Southeast story of course, this personal for you start with a sale of a city beat a few months back. And what that meant for you and your colleagues?
Speaker 6: 17:56 Oh, I mean it, it, you know, obviously like when we got the news we were a little tentative about how things would go and um, you know, there was a good reason for that because, uh, it's important to point out that Southland publishing owned before the sale, five papers all around Southern California when it was sold to a Tempe based, uh, company. Uh, we were a little worried and then the ax came down about a month later. And, uh, I was let go along with a host of other writers and editors, uh, across, uh, all the papers in Southern California. And, um, yeah, it, it, it was personal because yeah, it hurt and it, it was not, not cool.
Speaker 1: 18:33 And how would you characterize a city beaten and tradition of city beaten recent years in the coverage?
Speaker 6: 18:38 Um, it's, you know, it's a progressive left leaning somewhat, uh, alt weekly. Uh, I sometimes skew away from the word old these days, the prefix, all because you know, it has the alt right and stuff like that, but it's, you know, it was always something that like we were covering the stories that hopefully, you know, you might see, uh, again, when it comes to arts, politics, music, whatever we were covering, uh, those things before, you know, the UT may be caught onto them or whatever. And that's no offense to the UT UT they did great work, but we were just, you know, that was what we wanted to cover. The people. That's people in the stories that people weren't coming
Speaker 1: 19:11 for. And more, uh, more edgy, uh, may be more subjective. And a little more cutting edge, insider view view.
Speaker 6: 19:17 Yeah, absolutely. More irreverent as well. And, and humorous at times as far as like the w all the coverage, politics, arts, whatever, whatever the case may be. We wanted to have an edge
Speaker 1: 19:27 in the situation. Now how would you characterize that publication now though? The name is the same.
Speaker 6: 19:32 I mean the name is the same and that's basically it. I mean that's, that's all I can say is that there's no, uh, political coverage anymore. Uh, most of the, uh, content is farmed out of their, uh, their base in Arizona. Uh, the office has since closed in North park. I think they have a small, tiny little office, uh, in mission Valley somewhere. Uh, who's there? Not sure. Um, there's only basically one person left locally on staff. Everybody else has either been a let go or left.
Speaker 1: 20:00 So completely, completely different as we were saying, but what it was and explain just personally what it meant to be part of a weekly with that tradition of casting a critical eye and kind of a muck raking. And it goes a long tradition in journalism, goes back to the 18 hundreds at least. I mean personally amplitude is if you want to get that far.
Speaker 6: 20:17 Yeah. I mean it's since it began in I believe 2002, I moved here in 2000 and I was in school and I saw that weekly. I picked it up and, and you know, let's, this is discounting all the, the multiple national awards they won, uh, for, you know, their coverage, their investigative journalism, their arts coverage. I saw it and I, I loved it and I wanted to write for it, you know, personally, like it was, it's tragic to me because I was so invested in I, you know, yeah. I mean, I tell this story about, you know, how I saw the music editor at the [inaudible] ball and I approached him and said, I want to write for you. And you know, after that, you know, over the years I moved up and moved up and then I left a few times and came back. And,
Speaker 1: 21:03 but that was the nature of the beast, not a conventional job with a big city paper. And a lot of us went.
Speaker 6: 21:08 Yeah, absolutely. And you and you point out something that like, this is an ongoing trend in the news business, in the journalism business. So when something like this happens, it's not surprising, but because it has changed so drastically because as you know, as I feared that they were going to start not doing local coverage and like th you know, they do like do like little events coverage and thing, like things like that. But you know, to not have like a local staff to not have, you know, kind of commitment to investigative journalism and arts coverage, it's, it's a tragedy.
Speaker 1: 21:39 Well, as we said at the open here, it's a trend that stretches across American journalism. We've got a sound bite here from a veteran journalist, uh, Charles a Senate recently on the PBS news hour. He's now founder, CEO of the ground truth project. That's a nonprofit media organization, trains in places, reporters in local newsrooms. Let's hear that.
Speaker 8: 21:57 When we lose 30,000 reporting jobs as we have in the last 10 years, what we lose is an ability for us to have a shared set of facts on a local level and for us to have a civic debate on a local level. And I think we're really seeing a fraying of, of communities as a result.
Speaker 1: 22:14 Well, as he points out, Seth, we've just lost something. San Diego has lost something here and it's maybe not noted in the first day or first week, but as time goes on, this voice is silent.
Speaker 6: 22:24 Right? It's also worth pointing out that they recently, uh, uh, switched over website companies and in the process of that they expunged or, or got rid of the vast majority of content from the past, you know, two decks.
Speaker 1: 22:37 Okay. So the archives isn't ready.
Speaker 6: 22:38 It's not, it's not available anymore. Like if you were to look up, you know, like Kelly Davis for example, and Dave Rolland did amazing [inaudible] I know. Exactly. So like, you know, just recently, so their work that they did, the award winning work that they did, there is no longer a, you can't find it anymore. You get a four or four error page and then, uh, but I, I should point out that there are a number of organizations that have reached out, uh, to us personally to try and help us recover some of that content.
Speaker 1: 23:06 And Charles, I want to turn to the situation at the union Tribune. I should say I was there 27 years as an editor and reporters about 12 years ago now that I took a buyout, a lot of buyouts and layoffs over the years. We've had several different owners, uh, since then, but things seem to have stabilized now. Tell us about the, the owner and uh, and your sister paper law, Los Angeles times and what's, what's going on.
Speaker 7: 23:28 Right. So we were, uh, acquired by, you know, dr Patrick's soon Shung uh, about a say two years ago now. It's flown by. Uh, but you know, I think the immediate thing you started to see was absolutely the cuts kind of came to an end. So we've actually been hiring people. I know I was one of the, actually, I think if you look at our watchdog and kind of politics team, three of us immediately came on when, you know, in the three or four months after he acquired the paper filling openings plus adding a few new positions. Exactly. Uh, and then, you know, we've also added a few more positions, you know, I mean, it's not like the massive growth you've seen at the LA times where they're just hiring people nonstop. Uh, but it definitely I think adds a bit of security, you know, in a sense that, you know, you kind of have this direction going forward.
Speaker 7: 24:11 Uh, and then I think the one thing I'd like to add just cause then I brought it up earlier is, you know, I, I don't think it can be stated enough how damaging it is when you do lose local papers. I mean, you know, like the UT is a big organization, but the fact is we all supplement each other and we all, you know, make up for blind spots that aren't there and we cover communities that otherwise aren't seen. So, you know, whether it was city beat or the voice or I knew source or KPBS, you know, or the UT, it's important that people, you know, buy in.
Speaker 1: 24:40 Well, we should note that the staff has, it's still a big American paper and a big American city, excuse me, but staff is down really hundreds of folks since say 15 years ago when, when a lot of us were there.
Speaker 7: 24:51 Right? Yeah. I mean, if you even look at my position, you know, I'm the County government reporter in the politics reporter,
Speaker 1: 24:56 so you could very easily to separate and use to be separate jobs. All right. Short time left. Uh, Seth, uh, what do you do? And now your colleagues. Now it's a,
Speaker 6: 25:05 I'm, uh, I'm freelance writing in an AB five world, so we'll see how that goes. But, um, in any case, uh, I, there are a number of my colleagues have started their own websites. I do encourage people to read, uh, uh, Ryan Bradford, his new website is awkward, awkward SD. You can find it easily. He does. He's doing a lot of the stuff that he did at the paper. He has, uh, a column called well that was awkward and, uh, he's doing a really cool, cool thing. And then as far as, as far as Migos, I don't know. We'll see.
Speaker 1: 25:32 Well, I encourage everybody support local journalism sites, news sites. You can please the new year. Make it a, make it a priority. Well, that wraps up, excuse me, another week of stories at the KPBS round table. Like to thank my guest Prius or either of KPBS news, Seth Coombs, formerly with San Diego city beat and Charles Clark at the San Diego union Tribune. Remind her all the stories we discussed today available on our website, kpbs.org. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the round table.