The minimum wage costs a lot of jobs. If people prefer to work than live on welfare, we should not prevent them. These are interesting stories from San Francisco where they just had a radically large increase in the minimum wage across the city. Usually, it is an increase that is a shade higher than the prevailing wage so no one really notices. There are few extra losing their jobs, and those who were already unemployed are just part of the background. It’s a case study, When Minimum-Wage Hikes Hit a San Francisco Comic-Book Store, but for those simpletons who think minimum wage adjustments make little difference, this should be an eye opener.
‘I’m hearing from a lot of customers, ‘I voted for that, and I didn’t realize it would affect you.’
So says Brian Hibbs, owner and operator of Comix Experience, an iconic comic-book and graphic-novel shop on San Francisco’s Divisadero Street, of the city’s new minimum-wage law. San Francisco’s Proposition J, which 77 percent of voters approved in November, will raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2018.
As of today, May 1, Hibbs is required by law to pay his employees at Comix Experience, and its sister store, Comix Experience Outpost on Ocean Avenue, $12.25 per hour. That’s just the first of four incremental raises that threaten to put hundreds of such shops out of business.
Hibbs opened Comix Experience on April Fools’ Day, 1989, when he was just 21 years old. Over two-and-a-half decades, the store has become a must-visit location for premier comic-book artists and graphic novelists, and Hibbs has become a leading figure in the industry, serving as a judge for the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards and as a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s board of directors. He notes with pride that his store has turned a profit each year — no small task — since its very first year.
But that may not last. Hibbs says that the $15-an-hour minimum wage will require a staggering $80,000 in extra revenue annually.
“I was appalled!” he says. “My jaw dropped. Eighty-thousand a year! I didn’t know that. I thought we were talking a small amount of money, something I could absorb.”
He runs a tight operation already, he says. Comix Experience is open ten hours a day, seven days a week, with usually just one employee at each store at a time. I
t’s not viable to cut hours, he says, because his slowest hours are in the middle of the day. And he can’t raise prices, because comic books and graphic novels have their retail prices printed on the cover.
What is a small-businessman to do?
The small business shuts. The next one doesn’t open, while large business just trims.
Asking people earning $350,000 a year, as we do in Australia, may be the wrong way to determine the minimum wage.