Just a week away from the city of Berkeley’s own consideration of a minimum wage hike, Mayor Tom Bates is pushing a proposal that will join together major cities in the East Bay behind one regional baseline pay.
Tuesday’s announcement from Bates comes at a time when significant minimum wage increases are on the table across the region. Berkeley City Council is on course to consider raising the citywide minimum wage to $10.74 per hour at a May 1 meeting, and Richmond recently moved forward with raising its wage to $12.30 by 2017. With his plan, Bates hopes to prevent what he referred to in a statement as “a potential hodgepodge or patchwork quilt of differing minimum wages.”
The mayor’s initiative is based on Oakland’s current proposed wage measure, which would raise the minimum wage of $8 per hour — $9 starting July — to $12.25 per hour by May of next year. The rate increase would then be adjusted annually for inflation. Bates’ plan mirrors Oakland’s in that it would eventually adjust wages according to the cost of living, but his offers a more gradual increase: a hike in October to $10.04 and an 11.6 percent increase again next April, followed by an 11.9 percent increase in April 2016 to $12.53. After April 2016, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually for inflation.
If the proposal is adopted, Oakland and other cities would have to set aside their current minimum wage proposals, dropping them for the regional model.
“I believe a uniform minimum wage across our city borders could alleviate complex, confusing and expensive burdens for local businesses and prove administratively advantageous for city staffs,” Bates said in a press release.
But one key difference between the Oakland initiative and Bates’ proposal is that Oakland’s includes health benefits and sick leave, while the mayor’s does not.
Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb applauded Bates’ regional model but said he would still like to see sick leave tied to the proposal.
“Everyone deserves sick leave,” Kalb said. “I think having some kind of reasonable sick leave should be included in a regional proposal. Maybe that would have to be varied from city to city.”
Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin also supported the effort to take a regional perspective on the issue but said the details of Bates’ model “takes two steps back.”
“(Bates’ proposal) is dramatically different from what the (Berkeley) commission recommended,” Arreguin said. “I don’t think it will provide immediate relief for working people in our community who need decent wages to support their families.”
According to Arreguin, as of Wednesday, Bates had not submitted his proposal as an item for the City Council to consider.