San Francisco's minimum wage increased to $16.32 on Thursday — $0.25 more than it previously was at $16.07. However, given the city's high cost of living, which remains disproportionately more than what's seen elsewhere in the country, it's by no means on par with a "living wage."
Despite the pandemic slashing apartment rental prices in San Francisco, the seven-by-seven-mile city is still home to the most expensive rental market in the country. Local gas prices are teetering on $6 a gallon (for regular fuel) at some locations. Toll prices on the Golden Gate Bridge went up $0.35 for FasTrak users and "Pay As You Go" rates increased from $8.20 to $8.40, with the invoice rate now being $8.70 — all changes enacted on the same day the City raised the minimum wage. $15 cocktails are commonplace here; Lyft bikeshares have skyrocketed since last year; grocery prices in San Francisco remain "unusually high."
San Francisco's minimum wage rises to $16.32/hour on July 1. That's up from $16.07/hour. Oakland's minimum wage rose to $14.36/hour in January. The California hourly minimum wage is $14 for employers with 26 or more workers and $13 for employers with 25 or fewer workers.— Joyce Cutler (@joycecutler) June 30, 2021
And all of this is to say that an extra quarter afforded to the city's most financially vulnerable communities is far from enough. In fact: The current $16.32 minimum wage falls almost $12 short of what experts believe is a “living wage.”
That number sits at around $28.00.
It's not uncommon for many minimum-wage workers in San Francisco to put in either 50, 60, and even close to 70 working hours during any given week or get a second job (at like-pay) just to make ends meet. This never-ending hustling to simply survive in a high-cost-of-living area takes emotional and physical tolls on workers, especially for immigrant communities and undocumented workers.
When members of those cohorts do fall ill or become injured while working, it's not uncommon for minimum wage workers to either "push through" their sicknesses or not report work-related injuries.
Why? Many fear their jobs will be terminated — even though they are protected from such actions — or they'll have their hours cut. Or, frankly, they simply can't afford to take the time off to properly heal while supporting their families; it's estimated that at least 15 million children live in households that depend on the earnings of low-wage workers.
Federally, the minimum wage still sits at an abysmal $7.25 an hour.
July 2009— Dan Price (@DanPriceSeattle) July 2, 2021
Median house: $182,000
Health care costs: $8,200
Student debt: $20,400
Minimum wage: $7.25
Median house: $357,000
Median rent: $1,150
Health care costs: $12,400
Student debt: $36,600
Minimum wage: $7.25
(As an individual who became of legal age in Texas — a right-to-work state — I had countless jobs in my youth and into young adulthood that mirrored then-present federal minimum wages. When I eventually began managing local restaurants and working as an on-site auditor for Hilton Hotels, my hourly earning rates never eclipsed more than $9.75. Even for a twentysomething single male, whose closest experience to childrearing was maintaining a small collection of arid houseplants and limbless ectotherms, eking out an existence was hellishly difficult.)
But at least San Franciscans can now count on making more than twice that amount per hour.
"Employees that perform work in San Francisco, including part-time and temporary employees, must be paid no less than the San Francisco minimum wage, currently $16.32 per hour," reads an announcement from the City's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement.
"This increase is based on Section 12R.4 of the San Francisco Administrative Code. The Minimum wage rate will be adjusted based on the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index," the department continues, the increase a part of its annual raise on minimum wage, per the Minimum Wage Ordinance passed by SF voters in 2014.
Any nominal increase in minimum wage earnings should be celebrated and applauded, absolutely. But they don't negate the fact that some 40% of Americans are still just a medical emergency or missed paycheck away from financial destitution. For that statistic to shift in a seismic way, minimum wages should better match living wages across the board — even if the difference is just $0.25.
Related: SF Now Has The Highest Minimum Wage In The Country 
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Imags/Justin Sullivan