At its Tuesday meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted to raise the Berkeley minimum wage starting January 2015 after demand from workers and business owners to take action on the issue.
The motion to increase the minimum wage to $10 by Jan. 1, 2015, and to $10.75 by Jan. 1, 2016, was passed 8-1 on its first reading. The council also voted to appoint a task force made up of council members, business owners and labor advocates to discuss possible future wage increases after 2016.
By July 1, minimum wage statewide will increase to $9 as a result of legislation passed in September. With the newly proposed minimum wage passed Tuesday, Berkeley would be ahead of the state wage by $1 in 2015 and by 75 cents in 2016.
Councilmember Laurie Capitelli submitted a regional wage ordinance last week that proposed an increase of the Berkeley minimum wage to $10 by Aug. 1, 2014, and a fixed increase each year thereafter until 2020, when the wage would reach $15.25.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Capitelli reneged on his promise to put his ordinance to a vote and instead made a motion to delay action on voting and to convene a task force.
“I’m not so afraid of $10.75 an hour, but $15.25 an hour scares the crap out of me,” said Dandy Harris, who owns two stores in Berkeley, at the meeting.
Mayor Tom Bates suggested, in place of Capitelli’s proposal, that the council plan for a minimum wage increase for the next two years and for putting together a task force to further evaluate the future of the city’s minimum wage. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin approved Bates’ suggestion and put forth that council vote on the motion, which was ultimately passed.
Councilmember Gordon Wozniak — the only council member to vote against the motion — was concerned there hadn’t been enough time to engage the business community with the issue and preferred to delay the vote until later this month.
Still, he described the motion as a “reasonable first step.”
Councilmember Kriss Worthington, however, described the plan as a “thrown-together mishmash,” although he ended up voting for it.
“I don’t think either side is all that thrilled with what ended up happening,” Worthington said. “It’s not a giant victory for workers or for the businesses.”
Other cities have similarly acted to increase minimum wage. Richmond, for example, passed a vote to establish a wage of $12.30 by 2017.
Steve Kessler, member of Berkeley’s Commission on Labor, noted at the meeting the long-felt need for change on minimum wage.
“This is the most income inequality (nationwide) since 1927 — that is unacceptable,” Kessler said.
The second reading of the minimum wage motion is scheduled for May 20.