Under California’s Minimum Wage, This Bookstore Owner Is Struggling to Survive
Melissa Quinn /
After more than a decade at the helm of her bookstore, Ann Kinner faces an uncertain future because of new measures at the city and state level to raise the minimum wage.
On June 7, San Diego residents will vote on a ballot measure to raise the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in 2017.
This proposal, coupled with a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, has left Kinner in knots.
Over the last few years, the store owner has reduced her number of employees, lessened her business hours, and cut her own salary to keep up with increased labor costs.
“I just want to survive,” she told The Daily Signal.
I don’t want to be at the helm when the Seabreeze ship closes. That gets me choked up to think about it. This is something I do because I love it.
I was working here part time when I had the opportunity to take it over for the previous owner. It’s been an interesting ride. I can’t say I’ve ever not enjoyed it. I’ve had some ups and downs with running a business, but I love what I do.
On June 7, San Diego residents will vote on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour with automatic pay increases starting in 2019. Small business owners in San Diego are already bracing for the effects it will have on them.
Just because my expenses have gone up doesn’t mean my revenues are going to magically increase. If I don’t earn it, I can’t pay it.
With the San Diego only minimum wage increases, you know, we’re further disadvantaging San Diego small businesses. It’s challenging to do business in California anyway. When these new costs—and labor is typically the most, the biggest cost to one of these small businesses—goes up as high as they’re proposing it go up, they’ve got to offset those costs somewhere.
I don’t believe that increasing wages means that your business won’t thrive. In fact, you see companies like Ikea and Gap and others who pay a better minimum wage because they understand it’s good for business.
Since 2007, California has raised the state minimum wage three times. It is now $10 an hour, $2.75 an hour more than the federal minimum wage. And already the state legislature is contemplating a proposal to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
My revenues are down, my costs are going up. My biggest cost, aside from rent, is personnel. So it’s kind of like where do I squeeze? Well, I don’t have six employees anymore. I have four. Then I have two. And now I have one. That’s all I can do.
I take a small salary, but I don’t make minimum wage, frankly. That’s not the way I planned this. We really bought it to make a profit.
A minimum wage job is really designed to be an entry point for young people to get into the work market, to learn what the responsibilities of employment are.
We mostly had students stay a couple of years, and then graduate and go on, and hand the job on to somebody else. After the crunch hit, essentially what happened was we just stopped replacing them, which I didn’t like, but I had no choice.
That’s who I think we end up hurting more than anyone because if I’m an employer and I have to pay $15 an hour, I want $15 in value from my employees. So I may then stop paying a teenage kid who would get this opportunity and look for, say, a retiree who already has the skills and the experience and the understanding of what’s expected of them.
Businesses across San Diego, particularly in the restaurant industry, already have begun raising their prices to account for the latest minimum wage increase.
That’s something Ann Kinner cannot do.
I can’t increase my prices that much. The prices are printed on the back of the book. I have no choice. I can sell this book for $18.95 or I can sell it for less, but I can’t sell it for more. Publisher sets the price. I’m stuck.
We are the only game in town for what we do. We supply the whole maritime community. We’re kind of an institution. I don’t want to see that go away. I just want to survive.