Berkeley raises minimum wage to $15.59, citing employment statistics after previous increase

New Berkeley minimum wage and paid sick leave policy
Karina Nguyen/Staff

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Workers in 22 states and localities will be receiving larger paychecks after minimum wage hikes that went into effect Monday, including the city of Berkeley’s raise from $15 to $15.59 per hour, according to a press release from the Employment Policies Institute, or EPI.

The city of Berkeley will also raise the minimum wage every July by the amount of the prior calendar year’s increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area, according to an official notice by the city’s Housing and Community Services Department.

“With the Bay Area having some of the highest cost of living, it is only logical to have our minimum wage reflect that reality,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “I am proud to have worked closely with the labor and business communities in developing a comprehensive minimum wage policy that provides dignity to our workforce.”

The purposes of Ordinance No. 7,505-N.S., or the Minimum Wage Ordinance, are to “protect the public health, safety and welfare” and to provide community members with “self-reliance” within the city. The ordinance also states that employers must pay employees the full minimum wage requirement and are unable to deduct or credit any amount for gratuities or tips.

These minimum wage hikes have also been a cause of concern for some.

According to the press release, minimum wage hikes can have negative consequences — lost job opportunities, reductions in employee hours and business closure. The EPI also cited that the city of Emeryville decided to postpone its minimum wage increase from $15 for full-service restaurants this summer after a city-sponsored study found “widespread” job loss and business closures.

“Employees and business owners will suffer yet again thanks to the consequences of higher wage mandates,” said EPI spokesperson Samantha Summers in the press release.

According to Arreguín, though, residents of the city of Berkeley should not be worried. Arreguín said that since 2014’s minimum wage increase, the local economy has been “booming,” citing Berkeley’s unemployment drop from 4.6 percent to 2.8 percent by 2018.

Arreguín said his office remains conscious of businesses’ concerns and is working with the Office of Economic Development to ensure that small businesses receive the support they need.

Congress is also considering raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 under the Raise the Wage Act, according to the press release. 

“The statistics dispel the myths that increasing the minimum wage will result in more vacancy and less employment,” Arreguín said in the email.

Emily Hom is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hom_emily.