The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The bare minimum

California’s minimum wage raises for workers and fast food jobs have mixed effects on businesses and employees
The state of California increased its minimum wage to $20.00 for fast food workers, beginning on April 1. The large restaurant chain Panera Bread was initially exempt from this change until a clarification from California Governor Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of Dave Stone

Effective on Jan. 1, 2024, California’s minimum wage increased from $15.50 per hour to $16.00, with Cupertino’s raised from $17.20 to $17.75. By the implementation of Assembly Bill No. 1228, beginning on April 1, 2024, fast food workers in California also have an increased minimum wage to at least $20.00 an hour.

Senior Naomi Mhamunkar, who works as a barista for a Starbucks in Target, expects to see wages rise in the near future to $20.00 an hour because of the recently effective bill. According to Mhamunkar, the wage increases do not represent a significant change in her motivation or perspective of work, because as a student, her objective in working is not primarily profit-focused.

“I wasn’t too concentrated on the finances,” Mhamunkar said. “I am mainly putting my money into a savings account right now. In working, I was trying to gain some financial literacy by understanding exactly how much an hour of my labor is worth, and this allows me to implement more saving techniques.”

Despite saying that financial concerns are largely inconsequential for her at the moment, Mhamunkar notes that her workplace has undergone several layoffs to accommodate the bill. 

“My manager had a conversation with everyone and said, ‘Unfortunately, I’m only going to be able to keep 13 of you on my team, as that’s all our wages and finances can support,’” Mhamunkar said. “It felt nice to have my hard work recognized, but she made the increase feel like a privilege I had to earn rather than the wage by law that I deserved.”

Similarly, Foothill College student and part-time Panera Bread employee Julio Balino has noticed similar sacrifices his workplace has made in order to adapt to the increased wages. Balino’s cashier job at Panera was initially not included in the wage increases under AB 1228 because of an exemption for bakeries. However, after the exemption was accused of being designed specifically for Panera Bread’s executive requests, a spokesperson for California Governor Gavin Newsom clarified that the bakery falls under the fast food industry.

“I like that the minimum wage increased,” Balino said. “I just wish that none of the increased prices and cutting people’s hours had to happen because of it.”

Meanwhile, senior Vedavi Kavoori has worked at Yamagami’s Garden Center in Cupertino since her freshman year. Although Yamagami does not fall under the fast food category, it has experienced increased wages due to Cupertino’s Jan. 1 raise of minimum wage from $17.20 to $17.75. Kavoori acknowledges that students should expect low wages at entry-level jobs, as she believes that employers have no obligation to hire inexperienced part-time employees. However, she says people who work full-time minimum wage jobs are benefiting from the recent increases more. 

“It’s incredibly helpful for those people that are working in fast food to be able to afford basic necessities off of minimum wage,” Kavoori said. “It’s a horrible circumstance to have to work multiple jobs just to live.”

Looking forward, Mhamunkar agrees and is optimistic that minimum wages will continue to increase, considering that minimum wage workers often must make sacrifices in their jobs. 

“I feel like everyone should work a minimum wage job or a customer service job once, just so they can understand the hardships that come with it,” Mhamunkar said. “They’re such valuable jobs, because if we didn’t have them, then so many corporations would fall apart.”

To Kavoori, recent legislation doesn’t end the conversation about livable wages, but rather opens it — she believes these adjustments can bring society closer to an ideal balance between paying employees livable wages and companies being able to afford to hire them.

“I think it’s so important that we are taking this first step,” Kavoori said. “These policies all start with discussion. It’s not perfect and there are things to be changed, but at least we’re trying and that’s a lot better than what it was before.”

About the Contributors
Isabelle Kok
Isabelle Kok, Staff Writer
Isabelle Kok is currently a sophomore and a staff writer for El Estoque. In her free time she loves to listen to music, build useless hauls on shopping websites and take naps.
Jason Chu
Jason Chu, News Editor
Jason Chu is a junior and News Editor for El Estoque. He has enjoyed writing since a young age and also loves to play volleyball and guitar.
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