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Monday, June 23, 2014
Regional Minimum Wage Proposal: Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher Joins East Bay Mayors
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
East Bay mayors looking to raise minimum wage together
Updated 5:45 am, Monday, June 23, 2014
East Bay mayors are moving forward with a plan to adopt a single minimum wage for the region in order to share the benefits and burdens of raising salaries for the lowest-paid workers.
The proposal, initiated by Berkeley MayorTom Bates, calls on Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda, Albany and El Cerrito to adopt a minimum wage of $12.82 per hour by 2017. Richmond already has adopted its own minimum wage, $12.30 by 2017.
"It makes so much more sense if we were all on the same page, for the same amount," Bates said. "This way we can share enforcement duties, and no city would be at an economic disadvantage."
Bates' plan is modeled on Oakland's proposal, which goes before voters on Nov. 4. The primary difference is that the wage would only jump 11.6 percent the first year, instead of 36.1 percent as proposed in Oakland. Bates' plan also does not include mandatory health benefits or sick leave, which he said should be handled individually.
The advantage of a regional plan is that cities with higher minimum wages would not lose business to neighboring towns with lower minimum wages, he said. They could also share paperwork and economic analyses, as well as enforcement duties.
Several mayors said they support the idea and plan to push for it with their city councils.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said a regional minimum wage, especially if it's lower than San Francisco's $15-per-hour proposal, would give the East Bay an economic advantage in attracting business but still help its lowest-paid workers.
"We're trying to get this coordinated," Quan said. "It shouldn't be more difficult for one city to raise its minimum wage. ... It'd be much easier for all of us if this was a coordinated effort."
One hitch is that each city has its own economic nuances, which might be better addressed on smaller scales. Oakland, for example, has mostly rebounded from the recession, but some sectors of the economy are still fragile and should get specialized attention, she said.
Nonprofits and summer youth employment programs should also have exemptions, she said.
Emeryville Mayor Jac Asher said the City Council plans to look at the idea in July.
"My feeling is that we need to raise workers' wages, and we need to do it immediately. People are really having a hard time," she said. "I absolutely understand what Mayor Bates wants to do, and if there's some way to get a regional minimum wage, I'd be very supportive."
Her colleagues on the council might not be as receptive, she said. Even with a regional minimum wage proposal, each city will still have to navigate difficult political waters with its own business and labor communities, she said.
"Even Berkeley has had a hard time with this," she said, noting the Berkeley City Council's revisions and delays to that city's minimum wage plan. "I think, no matter what, we'll all be fighting battles over this."