Nation should follow SF’s lead on minimum wage

By Edwin Lee, Tim Paulson And Bob Linscheid

Starting today, the minimum wage in San Francisco will increase to one of the highest in the nation. We’re joining together as San Franciscans — leaders in government, labor and business — to call on Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to follow our city’s lead, proving that it is possible to promote income equality while simultaneously creating America’s strongest economy.

Promoting workers’ rights and creating jobs can go hand in hand, as we’ve demonstrated here in our City by the Bay.

Together, we urge the nation to follow our lead, balancing the needs of America’s working poor and small businesses so that issues like minimum wage are not “us versus them,” but all of us together.

At its core, minimum wage is a gender-equity issue. According to the White House, working single parents, most of whom are women, benefit when we raise the wage; it can help women work their way out of poverty and into the middle class. Estimates from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers suggest that increasing the minimum wage could also help close the gender wage gap.

The fact that, here in San Francisco, more than 60,000 families will receive a significant raise is something worth celebrating.

Starting today, the minimum wage for all workers in San Francisco will increase to $12.25 per hour. Then it will rise steadily, and predictably, over the next several years, as prescribed by law: on July 1, 2016, it will increase to $13 per hour; on July 1, 2017, it will increase to $14 an hour; and on July 1, 2018, it will reach $15 an hour.

Then, every year after that, the minimum wage will increase by a percentage defined by the Consumer Price Index for San Francisco. This is an effort to keep our city affordable for everyone, with business and labor and government working hand in hand.

Sometimes our city’s 3.6 percent unemployment rate obscures a hard truth: As our city becomes more prosperous, it also becomes more expensive, and it gets increasingly more difficult for low-income working families to afford living here.

Our booming economy can also mask the challenge of starting and growing a small business in this city. Most small-business owners struggle every month to balance the books, pouring their hearts and souls — and their savings accounts — into a venture that they love. Despite all the attention technology and other new-economy sectors receive, the fact is small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing 50 percent of San Francisco workers.

This is part of the reason San Francisco’s minimum wage will gradually increase over time, so that small businesses can more easily absorb the impact. It is critical that San Francisco’s wage law balances businesses’ need for predictability and reasonable growth with workers’ need for more take-home pay. It is a model that others across the country should consider when debating the appropriate minimum wage for their community.

For more information about San Francisco’s new minimum wage law, please visit

Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco. Tim Paulson is the executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council. Bob Linscheid is the president of the Chamber of Commerce.

This article appeared in the May 1, 2015 San Francisco Examiner.