Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A local poll

I was polled last night on local issues. Apparently the restaurant owners' association is trying to figure out what they could put on the November ballot that would get them out of paying the local minimum wage. (No -- the interviewer didn't say he was from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, but no one else has much interest in the arcane matters of restaurant economics that he was asking about.)

Pretty much nothing would attract me to a proposition to cut back the minimum wage ordinance, so I was a somewhat difficult interview for the young man conducting the poll. I repeatedly told him that I didn't think the data he was giving me in the arguments in support of a minimum wage rollback were true.

I was right; the claims weren't true. The interviewer repeated over and over that the San Francisco minimum wage is $19.14 an hour. As the graphic above shows, the city minimum wage is $9.14 an hour. The graphic is pulled from the official notice that must be posted in all workplaces.

I assumed whoever commissioned the poll had added some amount to its wage calculation to cover the costs of city-mandated health coverage but that will add only $1.60 per hour on top of wages. A local requirement that employers offer an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked will also add some, as yet unknown, costs. Still, claiming more than a doubling of the true minimum seems like a con to me.

The poll asked if I thought San Francisco was a tourist attraction because of its many restaurants (maybe), if I thought restaurant prices had gone up in the last few years (sure, but not more than inflation generally), if I understood that half of all new restaurants fail in their first year (yes), if I thought that restaurants would have to lay off workers if they had to pay tipped and untipped workers the same minimum (only if they could do without those employees), and how would I feel about limiting the minimum wage to untipped workers (not good, sounds like an invitation to abuse.)

Checking on these matters this morning, I learned that U.C. Berkeley's Institute of Industrial Relations released a study on the effects of San Francisco's local minimum wage in 2006. It found:

  • The new policy did not affect employment growth in affected businesses -- primarily restaurants, where the fulltime employment increased and job tenure improved.
  • Average prices for restaurant menu items increased slightly --approximately 3 cents on the dollar -- relative to their business counterparts on the east side of San Francisco Bay.
  • The policy did not spur business closures.
Those restaurant owners are going to have lot of convincing to do here.

The fellow doing the interviewing for this poll surprised me by his inability to read the script he was working from. I don't think this guy is going to last. He came across as young and a fluent speaker of standard English -- that is, a poor white guy. But he was apparently unfamiliar with such words as "inflation" -- and even more remarkably, on a throwaway Democratic Presidential primary question, he had apparently never heard of and didn't know how to pronounce "Biden," "Kucinich" and "Obama." This last is a reminder to blog obsessed political junkies that we may think the 2008 campaign is in full swing, but there are lots of ur fellow citizens who haven't given it a thought.


Civic Center said...

How DO you pronounce Biden and Kucinich anyway? Is it BUYden or BIDden? KUCHiniCH or KUSSinich or KUSSEYEnich?

It ain't just ignorant phone solicitors who are having problems.

janinsanfran said...

It's BUYden and closest to KUSSinich. I'll offer my unsolicited opinions on these two, neither of whom has any chance of nomination. Well -- maybe someone would make the mistake of taking Biden as Veep.

Havng Biden as Veep nominee would be like having Lloyd Bentsen on the Dukakis ticket, reassuring to the Beltway policy wonks without adding either appeal or campaign capacity.

Kucinich is a really sweet guy who is totally right on U.S. empire and has trouble doing such things as keeping his appointments or remembering who he is meeting. Literally. Pretty good staff, but can't compensate for the weakness of the candidate -- he does not convey an impression of competence or leadership. Very nice man -- not a president.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this post and all the information that it contains. that the guy couldn't read the script he had in front of him, gave me a squeeze in the heart. it seems that it is all about what people know and don't know. and for us who believe that we know, how to make the others know. the empire will stop bothering us, who are on its fringes, when this guy will know how to read the word inflation.