Why This Cafe Owner Started Paying His Staff A Living Wage

When you walk into 2% Jazz Coffee in downtown Victoria you will find americanos, espressos and all the other things you would expect.

What is unexpected is what happens behind the scenes.

In an industry struggling under the weight of the pandemic, owner Sam Jones made the decision to pay all of his 22 employees, from baristas to dishwashers, a living wage.

This salary does not include tips. It also provides up to 10 days of paid sick leave, which is double the amount currently guaranteed by the BC government.

“When people ask me how can I afford to pay a living wage, I turn the question around and say, ‘How can I afford not to? ‘” said Jones, who views his employees as an asset rather than an expense.

Jones launched his certified living wage program in August 2021. One of the benefits is that he has had no trouble attracting employees, at a time when other restaurants in his area cannot keep staff. in the books.

“There’s not so much a labor shortage in my mind, there’s a reaction to how we’re treating workers in our society right now,” Jones said.

“Why would you… work so hard and have to go get another job at the same time [to make ends meet]? COVID has really put this on a pedestal for everyone to see.”

A living wage

A living wage is calculated for cities across the country as what each adult in a two-parent family needs to earn to support two children and pay for basic expenses like housing, transportation, food, and childcare. , according to Living Wage For Families BC. It differs from place to place depending on the cost of living.

Currently, the living wage in Victoria is $20.46, more than five dollars more than BC’s minimum wage, which is set by the provincial government.

Living wage rates in cities across Canada:

Toronto $22.08

Vancouver $20.52

Calgary $18.60

Ottawa $18.60

Winnipeg $16.15

Halifax $22.05

Sources: Living Wage for Families BC, Ontario Living Wage Network and Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.

Jones had previously paid his employees more than minimum wage, but the move to a living wage increased his labor costs by about 20%. He’s been thinking about making the switch for a long time, but credits the Bread and Butter Collective for finally giving him the courage to make it.

The collective is a group of hotel owners in Victoria that came together during the pandemic to try to address industry issues, as well as share information and best practices.

Some members of the collective were already paying their staff a living wage and were able to advise Jones on how to implement this in his own business.

It’s the first time Hoèlune Hernandez has earned more than minimum wage and she says it’s been a relief for her and her family. (Submitted by Sam Jones)

Hoèlune Hernandez, 21, started working at 2% Jazz Coffee as a barista in March 2021. After growing up in a low-income family, she says this is the first time in her life that she has earned more than the minimum wage.

“Since I got my job at 2% Jazz, there’s been so much stability and ease that comes with it,” Hernandez said.

After her father’s death in 2020, she worked at least two jobs at once to support her family. She bounced around five different jobs trying to find one that would make ends meet, before landing at 2% Jazz.

“It broadened my horizons of what life could be like, because I’ve lived on minimum wage all my life,” Hernadez said.

She now sees a possible future for herself by taking on a bigger role in Jones’ business, including building relationships between coffee, suppliers and farmers.

By paying his employees a living wage, Jones says he gets retention and more from his staff. (Submitted by Sam Jones)

Jones encourages other business owners to follow suit by paying their employees a living wage.

“When you combine the core value of paying your employees more with the company’s vision, and you include your employees in that vision, that’s where you get retention, you get happy customers because they see you have happy staff,” he said. .

“If you still think you can attract employees with minimum wage, minimum involvement in your business, and minimum respect, that’s what those two previous things add up to – well, good luck with you.”


Written and produced by Bridget Forbes.

Michael A. Bynum