Santa Cruz OKs Nation's Top Minimum Wage

The City Council has voted unanimously to pass the nation’s highest minimum wage — $11 an hour, or $12 without benefits.

Initially, the “living wage” ordinance would only cover full-time workers for the city or for-profit companies with city contracts.

Santa Cruz officials hope to eventually extend the minimum wage to temporary workers employed by the city and at social service agencies funded by the city.

Meet the Opposition

The ordinance, approved Tuesday night, had no formal opposition as it was being developed over the last few months.

But the Santa Cruz Chamber Area Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday it did not support the measure because of key questions about its impact.

Chamber President Ken Whiting said the council had not addressed whether the ordinance would price unskilled workers out of some jobs or whether it would reduce the amount of public services that can be provided in this city.

There are about 50 other living wage ordinances nationwide. Some economists contend the laws are symbolic and have little effect.

Though most city workers in Santa Cruz already make more than $11 an hour, city officials say the ordinance is a good first step in helping address the rising cost of living here.

Santa Cruz is about 75 miles south of San Francisco.