After a two-month recess, Berkeley City Council will reconvene Tuesday evening to discuss a potential increase in the minimum wage.
In addition to several agenda items, the council will consider revising the city’s minimum wage ordinance to include the implementation of a “living wage” — or one tied to the cost of living — by 2020.
Last year, the council adopted a phased ordinance, which set the minimum wage in the city at $10, and planned to increase the wage to $12.53 in 2016. According to the proposal, the current wage is approximately $6 less than a full-time worker in Berkeley would need to be financially self-sufficient.
The current proposal, put forth by the city’s Labor Commission, would increase the wage to $13 next year and by $1.50 each following year, until it caps at $19 by 2020. Thereafter, the wage would be automatically adjusted to the local cost of living.
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held a meeting Monday with about 40 businesses to discuss the proposal. According to Kirsten MacDonald, director of operations at the Chamber of Commerce, business owners believe the proposal would result in job loss and closed businesses.
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that it is unlikely that the council will adopt an ordinance that would allow the minimum wage to reach $19 an hour but that he hopes to create a pathway to a living wage.
“You can’t live in Berkeley on a minimum wage,” Worthington said.
The council will also discuss two proposals that would raise the age for tobacco and tobacco-related product purchases to 21, and a third that would restrict the sale of nicotine products within certain parameters of parks and schools.
The first proposal, introduced by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, calls for an ordinance to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21. The second proposal, from Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore, seeks to investigate the effects and feasibility of raising the minimum age before taking any action.
The third tobacco-related proposal gives the council a choice between two approaches. The first plan would create a barrier of 1,000 feet between public parks and schools from tobacco sales by 2017. The second choice would prohibit the sale of electronic or conventional cigarettes within 600 feet of schools and parks by 2019.
“Of course it’ll affect business,” said Mohamed Hammami, manager of Touchless Car Wash in Downtown Berkeley. He said 40 percent of his sales come from selling tobacco products.
According to Capitelli, when the proposal was first brought up last spring, several small business owners claimed it would put them out of business, and he predicted the same thing will happen again.
City Council will meet in the council chambers Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Staff writer Jamie Nguyen contributed this report.
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