January 22, 2014
By Neal Tepel
San Francisco, California – Beginning in the late 1990s San Francisco enacted nearly a dozen laws to raise pay, improve benefits, expand health care access and extend paid sick leave for low-wage city residents and workers. Despite warnings about negative effects, these new policies significantly improved pay and benefits for tens of thousands of people—without negatively affecting employment.
San Francisco’s new labor standards have brought substantial improvements in compensation and access to health care to tens of thousands of low-wage workers and their families. In 2013, workers in San Francisco were eligible to receive a minimum wage of $10.55, up from $6.75 at the end of 2003; up to $2.33 in mandated health compensation; and one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The total of $13 an hour in mandated compensation for workers in large firms is 80 percent more than the federal minimum wage.
From 2004 to 2011, when the minimum wage ordinance went into effect, overall private employment grew by 5.6 percent in San Francisco and 3.0 percent in Santa Clara County and fell by 4.4 percent overall in other counties of the Bay Area. Among food service workers, who are more likely to be affected by minimum wage laws, employment grew by 17.7 percent in San Francisco, faster than either the other counties of the Bay Area (13.2 percent growth) or Santa Clara County (13.1 percent growth). And turnover has gone down, decreasing, for example, by 60 percent for low-wage occupations at San Francisco International Airport.