Menlo Park moving toward minimum wage ordinance — loophole for unions

Menlo Park City Council is moving toward a $15 an hour minimum wage, though companies with union contracts will be able to ignore the new law.

On Tuesday (Sept. 10) the council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Catherine Carlton abstaining, to have employers workers at least $15 an hour starting Jan. 1.

Carlton said she supports a $15 minimum wage, but wants the city to allow small businesses to take steps to get there.

Small business owner says it will hurt

Anna Chow, co-owner of Cheeky Monkey Toys, said she is worried about how her business will deal with the increase from $11 an hour to $15.

Currently, the city’s minimum hourly wage is $11 for companies with 25 or fewer employees and $12 for employers with 26 or more employees. This is the same as the state’s rate.

Chow said right now the only people being paid less than $15 are students who work at the toy store part time.

Chow said she sees the need for the wage hike, but wants more time to be able to shoulder it. She said the cost of doing business has already risen with her workers compensation insurance going up 70% and the price of products increasing because of the U.S.-China tariff war.

Carlton said she wants to help smaller businesses such as Cheeky Monkey by creating “steps” to get to $15.

But Councilman Drew Combs said this has been a topic of discussion for a while in Menlo Park and that the city needs to catch up.

Every business will have to pay $15 an hour unless they fit into two loopholes — those with union contracts or workers getting on-the-job training.

For the first 160 hours of employment, the employee is to be paid 85% of the minimum wage.

Union loophole

As for the union loophole, City Attorney Bill McClure told the Post that the union exemption is boiler plate language that most cities include in their minimum wage ordinance and no one asked that the city include it.

The loophole will allow businesses to pay less than the minimum wage if they sign union contracts.

Menlo Park is one of the last cities in the area to raise its minimum wage.

Other cities
• Mountain View’s current minimum wage is $15.65.
• Palo Alto, Los Altos and San Mateo councils each passed an ordinance in 2016 and the amount reached $15 this year.
• Belmont’s hourly wage will hit $15 by 2020. Its minimum wage is currently $13.50 an hour.
• Redwood City will reach $15 by 2020.
• East Palo Alto at its Tuesday meeting will consider a minimum wage ordinance.