Richmond is one step closer to giving residents a chance to vote on increasing the city’s minimum wage.
The City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night to direct staff to draft three potential ballot measures for minimum wage hikes of $11, $12.30 or $15.
A report will come back to the council within 60 days. If the council approves one of the rates, the proposed hike will be placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
“We have a lot of people living in Richmond that are at poverty level because the current minimum wage is not enough to sustain them,” said Jovanka Beckles, who sponsored the resolution. Beckles was also unanimously elected vice mayor for 2014 earlier in the meeting.
Richmond’s resolution will exempt employers with fewer than 10 employees and those operating less than two years in Richmond with fewer than 26 workers.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and the state rate is $8. The state hourly wage is set to increase to $9 in July and $10 in 2016.
Berkeley is also considering a wage increase and San Francisco’s minimum wage jumped to $10.74 on New Years Day, making it the highest in the region. San Jose follows at $10.15.
“Richmond can be a leader in this as it is in many other progressive causes,” said Richmond resident Marilyn Langlois. “The more cities that do this, that will push the state and the federal governments and give it more momentum to raise the wage to a level that it really should be.”
While many spoke in favor of the resolution, some fear business owners will drive up the costs of goods and services as a result of paying higher wages and force customers to shop in neighboring cities. Don Gosney said city officials should push harder for a statewide minimum wage.
“This is not about raising the minimum rage, it’s about raising the minimum wage in Richmond,” Gosney said.
“We have to know they will pass along these costs to the consumer. Unlike San Francisco we have options on where to spend our money, we can go right next door to San Pablo or El Cerrito.”
Officials with both the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Industries of West Contra Costa County have expressed concerns about the business community being excluded and initially unaware the city was considering a possible minimum wage increase.
Beckles says this is the “beginning of the conversation” and city officials have ample time to meet with residents, business owners and stakeholders.