How to kill a good deal for workers

Cities across the nation are passing minimum-wage laws that apply only within city limits.

Not surprisingly, discussions in city halls about minimum wages are replete with paid protesters, sloganeering and the all-too-familiar labor vs. business posturing.

In contrast, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson appointed a task force to rise above the rhetoric and address a minimum wage in a smarter, more collaborative and less adversarial way. This balanced approach got it right for our city.

Chest thumping took a back seat to collaboration. Stakeholders included advocates for the poor and ethnic minorities, business and labor leaders. The mayor forced disparate interests to put slogans, fudged facts and mischaracterizations aside in favor of dialogue.

Together, we developed a proposal. Every task force member was critical to shaping it. We shared the fundamental understanding that we had worked together to achieve something unique. Sacramento’s task force included critical components that effectively target the wage increase to our city’s lowest earners.

After this productive experience, I was disappointed to see a video featuring one task force member maligning the recommendations and mischaracterizing the total compensation recommendation.

The task force developed this provision – and recommendations including a teen-training wage, slower implementation period for small businesses and nonprofits and health care credit – to mitigate the consequences of a blanket minimum-wage increase.

Union leaders are opposing this wage increase, questioning the legality of the total compensation concept by claiming it would allow business owners to steal an employee’s tips.

This gross mischaracterization ignores explicit language in the ordinance, which states: “Nothing in this chapter entitles the employer to withhold gratuities from the employee to whom it was given.”

Our guiding principle as task force members was to focus on facts. The fact is that total compensation is a provision a business may opt into to create income equality between tipped and untipped employees, thereby targeting wage increases to the lowest earners.

Sacramento engaged a comprehensive process to develop a comprehensive solution. It balanced the voices in the room to find a solution that ensures targeted wage increases reach people who need it while mitigating impacts to Sacramento’s small-business economy.

The California Restaurant Association continues to support the mayor, council and task force recommendations. Without all the elements of the recommendation, we must urge the City Council to vote no.

Jot Condie is president and chief executive officer of the California Restaurant Association.