Mayor proposes East Bay regional minimum wage

Waiters at Comal. Photo: Postcard PR

The speed of adoption of an increased minimum wage has faced pushback from some restaurateurs in Berkeley. Photo: Postcard PR

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates today proposed that a number of East Bay cities, including Berkeley, join together to enact a regional minimum wage.

Bates’ proposal comes little more than a week before the Berkeley City Council holds a special meeting on a citywide minimum wage on May 1. Richmond has already had the first reading of a minimum wage ordinance, and a minimum wage initiative for the November ballot is being circulated in Oakland. 


Bates: “Berkeley needs to be with Oakland.” Photo: Emilie Raguso

“There were two major principles in putting this together,” Bates said. “I don’t want to put our businesses at a disadvantage with regard to neighboring communities. It makes sense for everyone to have the same wage. The second thing is that Oakland is the largest city and the city that determines the fate of what the rest of us have to go along with. People tell me that (the Oakland measure) is going to qualify and it’s going to pass. The rest of us ought to tee off that.”

Under the Oakland measure, the minimum wage would rise to $12.25 in May next year, from the state minimum of $9, a 36% increase. That rate would then be adjusted annually to keep up with the local consumer price index.

Minimum wage tableBates’ proposed regional minimum wage would provide a more gradual path to Oakland’s goals. He proposes an 11.6% increase this November to $10.04, followed by another 11.6% increase in April, 2015 to $11.20, followed by an 11.9% increase in April, 2016 to reach $12.25. Following that, the rate would be adjusted annually with CPI.

The proposal from Berkeley Commission on Labor, which forms the basis for the City Council’s meeting next week, calls for a $10.74 minimum wage this year for businesses with fewer than 50 employees and non-profits (as well as a medical benefit requirement), and an annual CPI adjustment. From 2016, $0.55 is added to the CPI adjustment, until the rate reaches the Berkeley Living Wage, which is currently $13.34 per hour, according to the commission. For “corporate franchises” or businesses with over 50 employees, the commission recommends a minimum wage increase to the Berkeley Living Wage.

Some restaurant owners in Berkeley have been vocal in opposing the labor commission plan, arguing that it raises the rate too rapidly for their businesses.

“The restaurant people will think the regional plan goes too fast, and the people that are supporting the labor commission will think it’s a sell out,” Bates said. “So maybe it’s the perfect position.”

Bates sent the proposal to all elected councilmembers in Oakland, Richmond, Emeryville, Albany and El Cerrito. He said he had discussed the proposal with three Oakland City Council members and one in Richmond.

“The reception from all of them is that they liked the idea of a regional minimum wage,” Bates said. “They all agree that’s the ideal. The question is how do we achieve that.”

“Berkeley needs to be with Oakland,” Bates said. “I believe this $12.25 is going to happen. We’ve just done it in a smarter way. I think it’s a fair proposal, but if no one else joins us, at least we’ll be connected with Oakland.”

Bates said there are other examples of East Bay cities working together. He pointed to the East Bay Public Safety Corridor, the East Bay Green Corridor, the East Bay Arts Corridor, and a regional sports complex.

“The logical thing is to work together with our neighbors,” he said. “All of those are things I started. So why not a regional minimum wage?”

Berkeley Council hears minimum wage increase pleas (04.03.14)
Minimum wage ‘tip credit’ idea gets cold shoulder (06.21.13)
Berkeley considers city-wide minimum wage hike

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  • DisGuested

    “I don’t want to put our businesses at a disadvantage with regard to neighboring communities. It makes sense for everyone to have the same disadvantage.”

    Brilliant. How about the politicos reduce their taxbase-crippling pensions, rather than inflict further economic damage on the commons?

  • guest

    Indeed! Politicians and the zoning board not bowing to anti-chain pressure from busybodies with facile complaints would also be a step in the right direction.

  • guest

    “Berkeley needs to be with Oakland,” Bates said. “I believe this $12.25
    is going to happen. We’ve just done it in a smarter way. I think it’s a
    fair proposal, but if no one else joins us, at least we’ll be connected
    with Oakland.”

    Why the fixation on Oakland? I do far more of my taxable spending in El Cerrito and Emeryville than Oakland.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    I’m for a living wage nationally, but locally I’m not convinced this is going to do anything but put more pressure on small business, ironically leading to only big chains being able to afford doing business in Berkeley.

  • Robbin Noir

    How about a maximum wage for execs? How about housing where what is called “affordable” is attached to the minimum wage, rather than to a rubric that simply means “cheaper than outrageous?” We need to lower the cost of living just as much as we need to raise minimum wage, or else the mega landlords simply jack up rates to grab the money.

  • guest

    Irrelevant response. Reducing politicians’ pensions has nothing to do with helping people whose wages are too low.

  • Robbin Noir

    Good point, but this is why it is vital to lower the cost of living, not just for employees, but to truly tiny businesses who are hobbled by sky-high rents for their places of business, as well as housing for themselves & their employees. One should not have to pay more the 1/4 of one’s monthly take home pay for housing. That is (logically) so that one has money to eat properly, save, not be overstressed by fear of losing housing, participate in activities that improve one’s mind & ability to engage as a citizen. Real estate speculation is a poison in the system, one so many have been pressured into in recent decades due to the decimation of unions and (most working people’s) retirement plans. Real estate speculating has been allowed to become the substitute for savings.

  • Grown up

    I applaud the mayor and council for approaching this critical subject with an eye toward fairness and reality rather than a need to have the highest wages in the country because Berkeley always has to be extreme. It is critical to raise wages for workers but not drive their jobs out of Berkeley. This proposal moves in that direction. It needs to be spread out over more years so bottom lines can adjust and really, we need to exempt our tiny businesses that are the last bastions of local retail in town, but this is a thoughtful start and it’s great that sensible heads are prevailing in this early stage of discussion.

  • berkopinionator

    Dear Mayor Bates: Spend a few weeks with the Public Works Department filling all of Berkeley´s potholes. Follow that with a few months with the police department to reduce crime. When you are done with those issues we can talk about regional wage issues. It is time that we focus on itraditional issues of city government. Crime and potholes cost all of us a lot of money.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    Good question guest. I think it has to be national so that business can’t just relocate to the nearest regional place that doesn’t have the same minimum wage. Since Berkeley has a history of high profile businesses moving to more welcoming climes.

  • guest

    We all know that filling potholes is more important than whether working poor families can afford to pay for food and rent.

    There is nothing more important than filling potholes. Let the working poor become homeless, because it is more important for me to drive around without hitting a pothole.

    Pothole-heads of the world, unite!

  • guest

    You originally wrote: “put more pressure on small business, ironically leading to only big chains being able to afford doing business in Berkeley.”

    Whether the minimum wage is local or federal has nothing to do with shifting business from small businesses to big chains.

    Now you have come up with a new point:
    ” it has to be national so that business can’t just relocate to the
    nearest regional place that doesn’t have the same minimum wage.”

    But that is exactly why Bates is proposing a regional East Bay minimum wage.

    If every place in the region has a higher minimum wage, businesses cannot “relocate to the
    nearest regional place that doesn’t have the same minimum wage.”

  • guest

    The problem with the Oakland proposal is not the wage amount but that it’s legislation by initiative, which can only be changed by a vote of the people, and actually contains language that belongs in a labor contract. Berkeley’s version, whatever the amount, is better because it’s legislation by the Council and can be changed by a vote of the Council, so it doesn’t need an expensive ballot campaign. Legislation by the ballot (the initiative) is a California reform that has been abused. If Berkeley is going to tell Oakland what to do, the Mayor should counsel the Oakland City Council to forestall the initiative vote by legislating a minimum wage.

  • guest

    The National minimum wage is already far lower than our local one.

    Increasing the local minimum wage would make the already high cost of doing business in Berkeley even higher and potentially drive small businesses out of town.

  • guest

    How much of the East Bay do you think will realistically sign on to this? Two? Three? Five at most?

    Unless they somehow get all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties to sign on businesses can just move another 10 minutes East or South and end up with a potentially much lower cost of business.

  • berkeleyan

    Thank-you Robbin Noir for putting this so succintly: I have been saying (roughly) this for years.

  • guest

    Do you think rude, disrespectful sarcasm like this is helpful in any way?

  • guest

    You miss the point. I was responding to BerkeleyCitizen’s claim that a local minimum wage would cause a shift from small businesses to chains, while a national minimum wage would not.

    If the higher minimum wage will drive businesses out of town, it should affect chains in the same way it affects small businesses. Why shouldn’t Staples move to Emeryville to lower its cost?

    In reality, I don’t think that that there will be such dire consequences. Many people want the convenience of shopping nearby and will pay a small amount more for it. I predict that neither Staples nor small businesses will move.

    In reality, chains are driving out small businesses for other reasons, unrelated to the minimum wage. We used to have two small businesses in downtown selling office supplies, but now we have Staples.

  • yetanotherguest

    It makes an important point with humor. What’s not to like?

  • guest

    If the higher minimum wage will drive businesses out of town,
    it should affect chains in the same way it affects small businesses.

    One word: VOLUME.

    Target can absorb additional staffing costs much easier than a boutique apothecary. This is simple, obvious Business 101 stuff here.

  • guest

    What important point do you think you have made? Are quality of life issues and infrastructure upkeep somehow no longer serious issues that our local government has ignored for decades because you shat out a snarky comment?

  • guest

    First, yetanotherguest used that name to make it clear that he is different from the guest who originally made the comment (me), so you should not be asking him or her “What important point do you think you have made?”

    Second, I never said that infrastructure is not a serious issue, but I am very tired of people who think it is the ONLY important issue.

    Whatever the topic that Berkeleyside is writing about – even topics that are vitally important to people’s lives, such as earning a wage that they can live on – there is likely to be someone who says: “Forget about this topic and fill the potholes.”

    When people make comments like this, they deserve sarcastic responses. I think “sarcasm like this is helpful,” if it helps the pothole heads to realize that there are other important issues in the world.

    [This comment has been moderated. -Eds.]

  • guest

    Hypothetically, if chains can absorb higher costs better than small businesses because of their volume, then a minimum wage would cause a shift from small businesses to chains regardless of whether it is a national or a local minimum wage.

    This is even more elementary than Business 101.

  • guest

    The local minimum wage is already higher than the National minimum wage, so an increase in the National minimum wage would not increase wages locally.

    This is basic are-you-even-using-your-brain-at-all stuff here.

  • Nate Dahl

    The ZAB acctually voted to deny the appeal and uphold the staff level approvals for a parking wiaver, extended operating hours and a quick service food establishment larger than 1,500 sq. ft. in a 5-4 vote. That decision was then appealled to council where the zab denial of the appeal was overturned and the project effectively killed.

  • guest

    Do you think that referring to people with the insulting phrase “pothole heads” is helpful? Do you think that insulting people is a good way to get them to change their minds?

  • Slash

    The idea of the “regional” minimum wage would be to prevent moving to Emeryville, since that would be still in the region.
    Now, a national minimum wage would force all chain stores everywhere to raise wages (hello walmart). But they still would have the volume advantage for goods that could be ordered in bulk, so that doesn’t really change the issue of pricing going on now.

  • Guest

    Maximum Wage for UC Administrator?

  • Berkopinionator

    According to the Berkeleyside robberies in Berkeley are up by over 25% or more in one year! There is a shocking article about a “transient” (ie. “homeless”) sex offender that tried to rip a 3 year old girl away from her parents just South of the UC campus. There are persistent and continuing stories about our people’s homes being invaded and looted by criminals. Our city is literally under siege by criminals while the Mayor, our city government officials, and many of our residents are focused on social engineering that has not been proven to work. If good people continue to get fed up with crime and abandon Berkeley because it isn’t safe, there will be fewer living wage jobs in the City. Making the city safer is in the best interests of lower, middle and upper class people. When crime explodes businesses leave and jobs are lost. If you want to help middle class workers, focus on reducing crime and create more business opportunities in the city to help create jobs. We should not be facilitating the Berkeley residency of transient sex offenders and felons. In cities that have reduced crime, city officials actively focused their efforts on the problem. Berkeley needs to focus on reducing crime, not experimenting with unproven social engineering that could backfire and actually cause more crime. If the City mandates that private employers pay higher wages, we may end losing middle class jobs, not saving them.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    “If all employers will act together, to shorten hours and raise wages, we can put people back to work. No employer will suffer, because the relative level of competitive cost will advance by the same amount for all of them.” Franklin Roosevelt, 1933.

  • margie

    Might not fill the holes in their heads, but it amuses the rest of us.

  • Useful idiots

    Seems to me like Bates is attempting to bring the rest of the region down along with us with this idea. If we all lose jobs and small businesses and see the corresponding increase in empty storefronts and crime together at least our city won’t look as bad. They all know that this is a terrible idea, because you’d have to have your head buried deep in the sand to not be able to see the obvious negative consequences this will have for our economy. Seems to me someone in emeryville is smart enough to see what he is up to, so I guess it’s likely we’ll be doing even more of our shopping over there.

  • Guest

    the reason central planning hasn’t worked very well yet is because we’ve not had the right people doing it yet. Robbin, throw your hat in the ring as I think you are on to a few things!

  • Guest

    “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” Alexis de Tocqueville

  • guest

    I guess all the economics professors who support raising the minimum wage just can’t see those “obvious” consequences as clearly as an anonymous commenter who sounds like he has never taken a course in economics.

  • guest

    Nothing will change the minds of the pothole heads. But a bit of ridicule will make everyone else see how misguided they are.

  • berkeleyan

    According to Berkeleyside, robberies are DOWN.
    You’ve got to wake a bit earlier than that to pull one over on ANOTHER READER OF BERKELYSIDE.

  • emraguso

    I think the issue is that, in the most recent official ANNUAL crime report in March, BPD described an increase in robberies in 2013 over the prior year, as noted by the first commenter. When we looked at the unofficial numbers for this year, they do appear to be down significantly for 2014. But impossible to say what will happen throughout the rest of the year.

  • sam g

    It had nothing to do with “anti-chain” pressure. It had to do with hardworking homeowners who banded together to try to save their already over trafficked neighborhood.