WHOPPER: Johnny Khamis and the Case of the Fact-Free Zone


If you heeded the warnings that San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis and the California Restaurant Association (CRA) offered at the Council meeting last Tuesday, you probably rushed out in the last couple of days to buy as much steak as you can before the city’s new minimum wage sends restaurant prices through the roof.  That is, unless you’re a restaurant worker, in which case you’re saving every penny up before you get laid off when that same minimum wage increase disappears your job.

According to these prognosticators, the Council’s vote to raise San Jose’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019 will kill jobs and drive prices out of reach for average consumers.  Hmmm, where have we heard that before?

Not in the UC Berkeley study released on the same day about the effects of San Jose’s minimum wage hike in 2013. That study showed that the minimum wage hike currently in effect in San Jose resulted in zero job losses and an average 1.5% increase in restaurant prices – or about 15 cents on your $10 lunch.

But such facts were no barrier to Councilmember Khamis as he made a motion to exempt restaurant workers who earn tips from the city’s wage increase, picking up the proposal from the California Restaurant Association. Neither, apparently, was California state law, which bars such exemptions. Nor was the fact that the item was only on the agenda to correct a previous typographical error, and so the chambers were empty of the dozens of community members who packed the seats when the Council approved the wage increase two weeks earlier.

What was a barrier to Councilmember Khamis and the CRA was Councilmember Raul Peralez sticking to his guns on his motion, which passed 11-0, to affirm the minimum wage increase that it had passed two weeks earlier, while ensuring that the one existing exemption is as narrow and targeted as possible.

And yes, you read that right – the vote was 11-0, with Councilmember Khamis supporting the same increase that he had just said would drive businesses to close their doors and damage the economy when people can no longer afford to eat out. He conjectured that he’d no longer be able to afford a steak.

Well, UC Berkeley has good news, Councilmember Khamis: if you can afford 15 more cents for your meal, Sizzler does still await.

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