On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will be voting on the city Commission on Labor’s recommendation to raise the minimum wage to $19 an hour by 2020. This is the rate that the commission determined would allow someone working full time to cover the basic costs of housing, food, health care and other necessities in the city.
I recently moved to Berkeley from the state of Nebraska, which last year voted in a statewide ballot initiative to increase its minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016. Adjusted for cost of living, that comes out to about $15.60 an hour in San Francisco. As of right now, Berkeley’s minimum wage will be only $12.53 in 2016 — effectively $3 less than Nebraska’s 2016 minimum wage.
Now, I’m new to the Bay Area, but I have a feeling that a minimum wage initiative that passed with 59 percent of the statewide vote in Nebraska could probably pass in Berkeley, too. If City Council fails to show leadership next week, the voters will no doubt pick up the slack next election and might boot a couple of the “no” votes on the council while they’re at it.
Rob Moore is a master of public policy candidate at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.