Paying the legal minimum wage, which the City of Sonoma wants to raise to $15 per hour, will threaten the survival of family-owned restaurants, a local grassroots group says.
“The Concerned Restaurants of Sonoma” is advocating an exemption to the $15 figure, in the form of a tip credit. The credit would apply to all tipped (“guest facing”) employees, who would be paid less per hour.
In a petition statement on Change.org, the group contends that many tipped employees “make $18 per hour with their gratuities, some are are making and additional $35-$50 per hour.”
The group is spearheaded by restaurateur Sondra Bernstein of girl and the fig. Along with other owners, she has been a vocal opponent of a hike in the minimum wage, which, she says, would throttle job growth and raise consumer prices.
The group does not cite an exact amount for any tip credit. (For large employers in New York City where the minimum wage is $15, for example, employers can claim a $5 tip credit and pay employees only $10 in cash wages.)
Here is the full text of the petition:
“Over the past year, the Sonoma City Council has been trying to accelerate the California State minimum wage and is being pressured by a group that has a tagline of “$15 by 2020”.
“Currently, California’s plan is for large businesses to pay $15 by 2022 and small businesses have until 2023.
“The City of Sonoma’s Wage Ordinance includes a 23% increase over a 2 year period for large businesses and a 33% increase over a 3 year period for small businesses.
“An increase this drastic at such an accelerated speed and rate will harm our ability to function as the community-focused entities that we are by reducing our flexibility in business strategy and growth and by ultimately costing our guests more money.
“Some of us have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to explain some of the intricacies of the restaurant business. One thing is perfectly clear, not all businesses are the same nor can they be operated on the same margins. For most of us, we are already paying our non-tipped employees a MINIMUM of $15 per hour, and we have no issue with this and are willing to go above the State’s plan.
However, our guest-facing tipped employees that are earning minimum wage are making at least $18 per hour with their gratuities, some are are making and additional $35-$50 per hour.
“The impacts of this ordinance for restaurants specifically are drastic due to the dynamics of tipped positions and many entry-level jobs. The exemptions we seek will contribute to:
“Without this exemption, the Sonoma City Council’s proposal as written will be harmful to our community, business sustainability and jobs.
“Our group sent a proposal that was over the State’s plan to the Sonoma City Council, which they did not acknowledge or share at the Council Meeting. We were given last minute information that caught us off guard about the ‘unlawful’ practice of a tip credit in California. However, the city’s attorney has stated that we ARE ALLOWED make a job class exemption to their ordinance.”