Support a Wage Exemption for Tipped Employees in the Accelerated Minimum Wage Ordinance

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We are a group of family owned restaurants that are dedicated to keeping Sonoma authentic and sustainable on all levels. We are actively engaged community members who are concerned with all the challenges that our town is experiencing including the housing crisis and community vitality, and we are determined to run sustainable restaurants that work for all of our employees, locals, and visitors to the Sonoma Valley community.

Over the past year, the Sonoma City Council has been trying to accelerate the California State minimum wage and is being pressured by a group that has a tagline of "$15 by 2020".

Currently, California's plan is for large businesses to pay $15 by 2022 and small businesses have until 2023.

The City of Sonoma’s Wage Ordinance includes a 23% increase over a 2 year period for large businesses and a 33% increase over a 3 year period for small businesses. An increase this drastic at such an accelerated speed and rate will harm our ability to function as the community-focused entities that we are by reducing our flexibility in business strategy and growth and by ultimately costing our guests more money.  

Some of us have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to explain some of the intricacies of the restaurant business. One thing is perfectly clear, not all businesses are the same nor can they be operated on the same margins. For most of us, we are already paying our non-tipped employees a MINIMUM of $15 per hour, and we have no issue with this and are willing to go above the State's plan. However, our guest-facing tipped employees that are earning minimum wage are making at least $18 per hour with their gratuities, some are making and additional $35-$50 per hour.

The impacts of this ordinance for restaurants specifically are drastic due to the dynamics of tipped positions and many entry-level jobs. The exemptions we seek will contribute to:

  • Allow businesses to pay a fair wage to all the staff including non  tipped employees 
  • Survival of Sonoma family run businesses
  • Business diversity (i.e. casual eateries, high end eateries, locally owned, etc.)
  • Creation of new jobs and maintaining existing jobs
  • Continuation of community involvement and charitable contributions
  • Business discretion on total compensation packages including insurance, team meals, etc. that aren’t included in an hourly wage

Without this exemption, the Sonoma City Council's proposal as written will be harmful to our community, business sustainability and jobs.

Our group sent a proposal that was over the State's plan to the Sonoma City Council, which they did not acknowledge or share at the Council Meeting.  We were given last minute information that caught us off guard about the 'unlawful' practice of a tip credit in California. However, the city's attorney has stated that we ARE ALLOWED make a job class exemption to their ordinance.

Our ultimate goal is to be sustainable businesses that positively impact Sonoma and our community by everything we do. As restaurant owners, we understand our business metrics.

We are asking you to sign this petition to support the following:

*** With the Sonoma City Council accelerated minimum wage ordinance we are requesting an exemption for the following job classes: servers, bussers, hostesses, food runners, and bartenders. We support giving exempt tipped positions a raise in January 2020 to $13.50 for large businesses ($12.50 for small businesses) and include an annual CPI adjustment starting in 2021.

*** We would also like the exemption for employees under 18 or first job candidates.

We appreciate your support of our Sonoma Valley Community, business sustainability and jobs.  

Here are just a few links to articles that show how this type of a proposal will hurt.

Council Considers Minimum Wage ‘PAUSE’ after MILLS STUDY reveals ‘struggling’ local Emeryville Restaurants

California’s rising minimum wage slows growth

Minimum Wage in California Will Rise to $15 in 2022. It Might Mean Disaster.

A Higher Minimum Wage Fails in California

Restaurants Are Dying; Here’s the Solution

Chamber Says Survey Reveals Members Have Cut Payroll, Raised Prices to Cope with Minimum Wage Hikes