BERKELEY'S NEWS • SEPTEMBER 26, 2022

Commission on Labor holds subcommittee meeting to discuss service charge, minimum wage

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MARCH 09, 2015

A subcommittee of Berkeley’s Commission on Labor met Thursday to discuss potential changes to the city’s wage laws, including a revision to ensure that money earned from service charges goes directly to employees.

Some restaurants institute a service charge on top of the bill. The business owner then has the option of distributing the service charge to employees, according to the commission’s chairperson, Sam Frankel. Currently, the language in the wage ordinance does not require owners to give the service charge to employees, and some owners choose to keep the money to make extra profit.

To make sure employees can reap the benefits from service charges, the subcommittee discussed ways to revise city law so that employees directly receive that money.

“There are definitely businesses in Berkeley that take the service charge and distribute it to the employees to provide for healthcare,” Frankel said. “If we make the change, it levels out the playing field for these owners who were operating with good morals to begin with.”

Service charges, however, should not be confused with gratuities. Staff working at the front of a restaurant, including servers, have ownership over gratuities. But employees working in back, including chefs, do not receive tips and often earn less than those at the front. The service charge can give the workers in the back extra money that could cover health care expenses.

At the same meeting, the subcommittee also discussed ways to match the minimum wage with that of the Living Wage Ordinance by 2017.

“It’s not a cheap thing to provide for a family.” said Frankel. “We’re looking to make things more affordable so workers can have money to buy the basic necessities of life.”

The current minimum wage in Berkeley is $10 per hour, exceeding the state minimum by a dollar. This is to be increased to $11 by October, then to $12.53 by October of 2016. This three-step installment was approved by City Council in June.

The Living Wage Ordinance is a Berkeley law that obliges businesses with a contractual relationship with the city to pay their employees at least $15.99 per hour, or $13.71 along with a medical benefit equivalent to at least $2.28 per hour.

To discuss the plausibility of this goal, the subcommittee has communicated with members of the business community. Several businesses in Berkeley, particularly local restaurants, said they are not against increasing the minimum wage. They feel, however, that the process of raising the wage must be slowed down.

“The increase mostly benefits the front of the (restaurant),” said John Martin, the owner of both Jupiter and Cafe Panini. “Most people don’t think that increasing the minimum wage could bring negative consequences — that’s because they don’t understand the business.”

The Commission of Labor will hold a meeting March 18 at the North Berkeley Senior Center to review matters that were discussed in the meeting.

Contact Jennifer Kang at 

LAST UPDATED

MARCH 10, 2015


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