Businesses, workers differ on $15 minimum wage

Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 21:38:18-04

While many celebrate at the state Capitol celebrate the proposed increase, there are mixed emotions among business owners in downtown Bakersfield. 

Owners of some "mom and pop shops" said it is hard enough to stay open and increasing worker wages will only make it harder. 

"Doesn't matter from which side of the aisle it's coming, it's a totally insane idea," said Jerry Baranowski, owner of Jerry's Pizza and Pub in downtown Bakersfield which has been there for nearly 25 years. 

Jerry's Pizza sells a slice of pepperoni pizza for $2.50, but Jerry said after the minimum wage increase, he won't be able to sell pizza at that price. Jerry said he has three employees who work for him, but he said he has been working more hours himself because business is slow.

"My decision is very simple, if it's going to go up, I'm closing the doors. Not because of my age, but we cannot afford it," said Baranowski. 

Down the street at Rio Acai Bowls, the owner is also struggling to figure out a plan to stay open without increasing prices for customers. 

"Having a small business is hard enough especially in town, and knowing we'd have to be paying people four to five dollars more is just troublesome," said Justin Cummings, owner of Rio Acai Bowls. 

But for Julie Otero who is paid minimum wage as an in home medical assistant through United Domestic Workers, she said this is a potentially life-changing initiative. 

"On a daily basis we struggle because of the job we do and the non benefits that we have. We have to make a decision on a daily basis on what we do with the little money that we have," said Otero. 

She said she sometimes has to decide between paying bills or putting food on the table for her family and if the minimum wage goes up -- she thinks it could help alleviate some of those difficult decisions. 

And while the local business owners say they feel for the workers, but logistically they can't afford it. 

"As an owner we all want to give our employees raises, but to be forced to, it just it's not what we want to do. We want to do it based on performance," said Cummings.

"If I would have and I could, I would definitely share extra money if there would be, with our employee, but there's no extra money," said Baranowski.

While small businesses will have to comply with the minimum wage increase if it passes, those businesses with less than 25 employees will have an extra year to increase their workers wages.