A Richmond council member is seeking to put a measure on the November ballot that could raise the city’s minimum wage to at least $11, potentially making it the region’s highest.
Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles sponsored the resolution, scheduled to be heard at Tuesday night’s council meeting, to direct city staff to draft three possible minimum wage hikes – $11, $12.30 or $15. The options could come back to the council for consideration within 60 days.
If the council approves one of the rates, Richmond voters would have the final say on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
The proposed minimum wage hike would exempt businesses with less than 10 employees and those operating less than two years in Richmond with fewer than 26 workers.
“People are really having a hard time making ends meet and they are stressed out,” Beckles said. “As the cost of living has increased in the Bay Area, the minimum wage rate has not. We are trying to correct that in Richmond.”
Richmond’s proposal would be a boost over the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 and the state rate of $8.
The state hourly wage is set to increase to $9 in July and $10 in 2016. San Francisco jumped to $10.74 on New Years Day, making it the highest in the region. San Jose follows at $10.15.
Richmond has long had a living wage requirement for contractors that is adjusted to keep up with the area’s cost of living. In 2009, the wage was set at $16.69 and will likely increase to more than $17 this year, according to the staff report.
“This is about creating jobs and putting people to work,” Beckles said. “I really see this as a way to encourage business and have them thrive. This is a way to help businesses currently struggling because people will have money to spend. If the consumer demand increases, employers can afford to hire more people.”
Beckles says the city council has the authority to raise the minimum wage, but wants voters to have the final say.
But Katrinka Ruk, executive director of the Council of Industries of West Contra Costa County, says the business community has been excluded from the discussion of a possible minimum wage increase.
“Further increases beyond the state’s minimum wage could force businesses located in Richmond to make do with current staffing and hinder additional hiring,” Ruk wrote in an email to city council members. “Worst yet it might create cutbacks in employment.”
Should the council move forward with the minimum wage raise, Ruk recommends the city conduct a feasibility study to determine the potential economic impact on current businesses as well Richmond’s ability to recruit new businesses if the wage is increased.
Vice Mayor Corky Booze said he’s not opposed to a minimum wage hike, but he too is worried about the impact it could have on business owners.
“We haven’t even done a study on what type of businesses we have in the city of Richmond,” he said. “You have to look at what this will do to the community when you try to bring businesses to Richmond and they know this kind of law is here.”
If you go:
The Richmond City Council will discuss a possible minimum wage hike at 6:30 Tuesday at the Richmond City Council chamber, 440 Civic Center Plaza.