Special Berkeley council meeting announced to vote on compromise minimum wage

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja

A special meeting of the City Council has been announced for Thursday night to vote on a compromise minimum wage proposal for Berkeley.

Up to this point, voters were set to consider two competing minimum wage proposals this fall, one sponsored by labor advocates, and another supported by a Berkeley City Council majority. Both were set to appear on the November ballot.

According to a statement released shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday, “Working collaboratively, an agreement that avoids dueling ballot measures on the minimum wage in Berkeley has been reached.”

Workers’ rights attorney and EBMUD Director Andy Katz, who sent out the statement and helped facilitate the compromise, said the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, and Berkeley Councilman Laurie Capitelli had reached that agreement together.


Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the minimum wage.

A vote on the new language is expected to come Thursday, Aug. 11, at a 6 p.m. meeting of the City Council. If all goes according to plan, that will mean Berkeley will have new minimum wage language on the books after the vote takes place.

Katz said the SEIU’s measure will still appear on the ballot, because by law it cannot be removed. But he said the group plans to campaign against its own measure and will be releasing a statement to that extent shortly.

Council members who signed a petition in favor of the special meeting, according to the statement, included Capitelli, Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington, all of whom have announced plans to run for mayor in November. Council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore signed the petition, too.

“The Council will consider rescinding its previous action placing a minimum wage ballot measure on the November ballot, and will consider adopting a consensus ordinance at the special meeting on Thursday,” according to Katz.

He said he held negotiations over several weeks after letting the council know at its June 14 meeting that the two sides should “work together to find common ground.”

As Berkeleyside reported in June, Katz told council: “I’m concerned about the ballot this November being confusing for voters.… Don’t have two measures on the ballot.”

From there, he said Wednesday, he was able to work with both campaigns to come to the agreement.

The community initiative aimed to get to a $15 minimum wage by 2017, while the council measure got to $15 by 2019. The exact language to be considered by council Thursday has not been posted online.

Katz said that language is still being vetted by the city attorney but should be available prior to Thursday night’s meeting.

According to the item as posted, council is set either to rescind the prior vote and approve new unspecified language for the ballot, or rescind the prior vote and actually approve new minimum wage language as part of the Berkeley municipal code. Katz said the vote is expected to result in the latter outcome.

The information posted on the council agenda for Thursday night's meeting includes no details. Source: City of Berkeley
The information posted on the council agenda for Thursday night’s meeting includes no details. Source: City of Berkeley

According to a statement from Arreguín’s office, the new proposal will be a boon to Berkeley.

“Raising the minimum wage will help lift up working families who for too long have struggled to make ends meet,” he said. “Berkeley should be a leader in economic justice, but we have recently fallen behind other cities. This proposal will bring us back to the forefront and enable our communities and neighborhoods to remain diverse and prosperous.”

John Caner, of the Downtown Berkeley Association — which represents downtown businesses and property owners — said he found the short notice and limited information about the meeting problematic.

“I’m extremely concerned that council is revisiting this issue with 24 hours notice, limiting the ability of our members and other community stakeholders to participate in the process,” he said. “Moreover with the mayor and the vice mayor absent, it seems like a misguided process.”

According to the city, officials are also scheduled to consider a resolution to correct the ballot measure related to the business license tax on rental units. Only those two items are on the agenda.

The agenda for the meeting can be found on the city website. The full packet is posted online, but includes no additional information about the minimum wage language.

(This story was updated shortly after publication to reflect new information.)

Related:
Berkeley Council approves alternative minimum wage measure for ballot (06.15.16)

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