City Council places new minimum wage measure on November ballot

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Francesca Ledesma/Staff

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In a meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council voted to draft a ballot resolution that would raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2019.

The resolution was proposed by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli in lieu of considering changes to the minimum wage ordinance drafted by the city manager after a contentious meeting last November. The resolution replaces the two-tier schedule drafted in the ordinance, under which small businesses would have been required to raise their minimum wage to $15 two years after the October 2018 deadline for large businesses. The new proposal will require that all employers raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2019.

The city’s minimum wage is currently $11 per hour and is scheduled to increase to $12.53 this October. Though there was unanimous agreement in the council that a $15 minimum wage at the least was desirable, when and how the increase should be implemented remained a point of significant contention.

“Two-tiered schedules don’t result in sound policy and often provide perverse incentives,” Councilmember Lori Droste said at the meeting, noting that it is challenging and costly to enforce such a two-tiered system. Droste added that she was “very happy that all workers will be valued for their work regardless of where they work” under the resolution proposed by Capitelli.

At the meeting, Councilmember Kriss Worthington conveyed his disappointment that Capitelli wanted to replace the proposal initially under review.

“I’m just surprised that we would go from halfway-decent to worse,” Worthington said.

Following review by city staff, the resolution will join a citizen-proposed initiative that seeks to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2017 on the ballot.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin voted against the resolution. During the meeting, Arreguin said Capitelli’s proposal “is a very cynical ploy to try to confuse the voters of Berkeley” by ensuring the placement of two minimum wage-related measures on the ballot.

Both Arreguin and Capitelli are running to be the city’s next mayor.

During public comment, advocates for the city’s small businesses, including Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner, said small businesses should be given more time to adjust to any wage increase.

The majority of commenters and audience members disagreed and loudly applauded Councilmember Max Anderson, who argued against concerns from businesses.

“Coffers ought to be bursting over with the money that (small and large businesses) have made off of the sweat and labor of the people you have been underpaying,” Anderson said at the meeting.

A scheduled discussion regarding the adoption of a resolution mandating that the Berkeley Unified School District not sell or serve sugar-sweetened beverages at any campus was deferred to the council’s next meeting May 10.

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ishaansriv.