City Council to discuss revisions to city minimum wage, paid sick leave

Ariel Hayat/File

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Berkeley City Council will meet Tuesday evening at a special meeting to consider revisions to the city’s minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinances.

The city’s Commission on Labor proposed amendments that would raise the minimum wage to a living wage, add an annual cost-of-living adjustment to the minimum wage and grant additional paid sick leave to all workers, among others.

The city’s minimum wage is $11 per hour but is scheduled to increase to $12.53 on Oct. 1, 2016. The commission’s proposal would increase the minimum wage to $13 by October 2016, adding an annual increase of $1.50 through October 2020, when the minimum wage would reach $19.

The city’s Chamber of Commerce has proposed an alternate plan to raise the minimum wage at a slower pace, starting at $12 on Oct. 1, 2016 and increasing annually by $0.50 to reach $15 on Oct. 1, 2022.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said it is difficult to predict what changes City Council will make to the minimum wage ordinance at its Tuesday meeting.

At its Sept. 15 meeting, City Council deferred action on an item that would raise the hourly minimum wage in a phased approach to reach $15 per hour by 2018.

Tauna Lamere, manager of the local Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, said increases in minimum wage may result in price increases and probable restructuring of Saul’s business model, where customers would order food at a counter instead of giving their orders to a server.

Michelle Morris, campus senior and member of the campus’ Student Labor Committee, or SLC, said that the SLC supports raising the minimum wage for the city and that a higher minimum wage would benefit student workers.

“SLC organizes with low-income workers on campus, and so we are definitely in favor of improving work conditions, so that means raising the wage to a level that is a living wage,” Morris said.

Morris added that the SLC supports a minimum wage of $19 per hour and the city’s Department of Health, Housing and Community Services’ proposal to modify the paid sick leave ordinance.

Worthington predicted that the paid sick leave proposal would pass unanimously.

Under state law, workers accumulate one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, but employers can limit the use of paid sick leave to 24 hours — or three working days — per year.

The Department of Health, Housing and Community Services has proposed a system under which employers cannot limit employees’ earned paid sick leave, employees of large businesses — those with more than 10 employees — can accumulate more paid sick leave, employees can take sick leave to care for a nonfamily member, and employees are not required to work at least 30 days in a calendar year to accumulate paid sick leave.

Contact Emma Soldon at [email protected].