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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Emeryville's Minimum Wage Likely to be Eclipsed by Berkeley

'Regional Approach' on Minimum Wage Emerges
Buoyed by the actions of municipalities throughout California and the entire nation, East Bay cities in the Bay Area are undergoing discussion and implementation of minimum wage increases, one city seeing the raise by another and increasing their own in response; the much talked about 'regional approach'  polity emerges.  Emboldened by Oakland's $12.25 minimum wage, Emeryville has begun deliberation on its own summer 2015 wage hike to $14.42 per hour for big businesses and Berkeley, not to be outdone, is now considering leap-frogging past Emeryville with a wage pegged at $16 by 2017.  This regional approach to minimum wage setting is a formula that will likely settle out at a place where the lowest paid citizens among us will receive compensation for their labor at a (marginally) livable wage.  It's a formula that (ultimately) takes into account built-up inequalities across the region by removing local capriciousness and petty ideological politics from municipalities acting as would-be fiefdoms. 
First it was Berkeley that raised its minimum wage in 2014, followed on by Oakland last fall, then Emeryville, under pressure from its neighbors goes one better and now it's back to Berkeley, each city raising the wage a click.  This regional approach to settling on an ethical minimum wage is turning out to be a rational policy proscription that brings higher social and economic justice; a good thing.

From Chico Enterprise-Record News:

Berkeley could have $16 minimum wage by 2017
By Judith Scherr Correspondent
POSTED: 03/24/15, 2:58 PM PDT |

BERKELEY -- The city's $10 an hour minimum wage, which currently trails levels set by San Francisco and Oakland, could sprint to more than $15.99 by 2017, if the City Council adopts standards being proposed by its Labor Commission.
San Francisco's minimum wage is at $11.05 an hour, on its way to $15 in 2018; Oakland's is at $12.25, increasing annually with the Consumer Price Index. All exceed California's current minimum wage of $9, which will increase to $10 in 2016.
Under Berkeley's 2014 ordinance, the minimum wage went to $10 an hour in October 2014, will increase to $11 by October 2015 and to $12.53 by October 2016.

The draft revised minimum wage law the Labor Commission finalized at its March 18 meeting would increase minimum wages in October 2017 to match Berkeley's Living Wage, the minimum companies contracting with the city must pay employees.

The law provides no further increases after 2016.

Berkeley's current Living Wage is $13.71 an hour, plus a health benefit of $2.28 an hour; both increase annually with the CPI.

Similarly, the proposed minimum wage and health benefit would increase with the CPI. Employees would be able to opt for either an employer health plan or a cash benefit.
The draft law provides sick days, calculated at one hour per 30 hours worked.
The City Council is expected to consider the proposal June 9, but approval won't be a slam dunk. "I think we are in for a fight with the City Council," said commission Chair Sam Frankel, urging colleagues to lobby the council members who appointed them to the commission.
Last year the council rejected a Labor Commission proposal that would have raised Berkeley's minimum wage over several years until it caught up with the Living Wage, opting instead for the more modest minimum wage.
Berkeley's restaurateurs have led the fight to slow minimum wage increases.
John Paluska, who owns two Berkeley restaurants, cautioned the commission against raising the minimum wage and health care benefit too quickly.
"Based on today's numbers, this double increase would result in an additional cost to Berkeley employers of $3.46 (an hour)," Paluska wrote in a March 18 email. "Add in nearly three years of CPI increases and this number will likely be closer to $4 (an hour). This is a huge increase with no phasing."
Instead, Paluska proposed yearly CPI increases beginning in October 2017, which he said would give the business community time to study consequences of Oakland and San Francisco's wage increases.
Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong expressed concerns to the commission about seniors who hire caregivers.
"They are paid not by government money, but by individuals hiring them," she said, contending that seniors unable to afford the increased wage may hire employees off the books who are willing to work for less than minimum wage and might be untrustworthy.
The draft ordinance also addresses service charges, a percentage of a restaurant bill added in lieu of tipping. The proposed ordinance explicitly excludes owners and managers from sharing in service charges.
Armstrong told the commission she believes regulating service charges complicates record keeping.
But David Fielder, speaking on behalf of the Wellstone Democratic Club and the group Tax the Rich, said that without regulation service charges might go to managers.
Fielder went on to counter the argument that the wage hikes will hurt businesses.
"Don't listen to 'The sky is falling' and Chicken Little stuff," he said. "The thrust of this ordinance must ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people, not protect the secretive profit margins of a few outspoken opponents."
Stephen Gilbert, with the Berkeley Minimum Wage Initiative Coalition, told this newspaper after the meeting, "If the City Council decides to gut (the commission proposal), we'll be moving forward with an initiative."
The coalition plans to file with the city clerk in April to begin a six-month process collecting signatures to put a ballot measure before Berkeley voters in Nov. 2016 that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by October 2017.
San Francisco's November 2014 minimum wage ballot initiative won by 77 percent and Oakland's won by 82 percent.
On April 7 the Emeryville City Council will hold a study session on hiking the minimum wage to $14.42, equal to the city's living wage, effective July 1 2015.

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