County approves minimum wage for unincorporated areas

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a minimum wage of $16.50 per hour for unincorporated areas of the county effective April 1. The new ordinance will bring unincorporated areas in line with cities throughout the county such as Half Moon Bay that already have minimum wage laws in place.

The new law also requires an annual increase in the minimum wage beginning at the start of 2024. The increase will be equal to whichever is lower, 3.5 percent or the annual adjustment to the consumer price index for urban wage earners as determined by the U.S. Labor Department.

The new rules exempt employees of a business represented by a collective bargaining unit who work under a contract that predates or explicitly waives the county ordinance. Union workers typically receive compensation well above local minimums.

Cities such as Pacifica that have not established a minimum wage will remain subject to state rules. Beginning on Jan. 1, the California minimum wage will increase to $15.50 per hour for employees of all businesses. In Half Moon Bay the minimum will increase to $16.45 in 2023. Several other Bay Area cities also have minimum wage levels higher than the state. The Mountain View rate goes up to $18.15 at the start of the year.

Local business owners who spoke to the Review did not express concern about the pending increase.

Mike Wagner, owner of Seville Tapas in Pillar Point Harbor, said that if he paid minimum wage no one would be working for him. “I’m paying people $20 and $25 and still have trouble getting enough staff to cover the hours,” he said.

Chaunda Smith, owner of Ocean View Café in Montara, also pays her staff well above the minimum. She has only one employee but said that having a reliable person who can come in when needed is worth the extra pay.

Speaking in support of the measure that he introduced with Supervisor Dave Pine, Board President Don Horsley emphasized the impact the new minimum wage could have on farmworkers. Horsley reminded the public of the vital role farm labor plays in bringing food to our tables and spoke about the heroic efforts of farmworkers during the pandemic and wildfires over the past several years.

At $1 above the state minimum any workers impacted by the new rule could receive about $2,000 more in 2023 than they would have without the law. Rita Mancera, executive director of Puente, described the increase as a step in the right direction but said she still thinks it’s not enough.

Despite the new wage levels, low-wage workers in the county still face challenges due to the cost of housing and inflation. According to a living wage calculator developed by Professor Amy Glasmeier at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a single adult with no children would need to earn $31.80 per hour working full time to support him- or herself in San Mateo County. 

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