Richmond takes step toward upping minimum wage

Richmond City Council Council moved forward with  a possible minimum wage hike at Tuesday's meeting. (File photo by: Ian Stewart)

Richmond City Council Council moved forward with a possible minimum wage hike at Tuesday's meeting. (File photo by: Ian Stewart)

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.

2 Comments

  1. Tony SUggs

    When you give people the chance to “vote” themselves more money or other “stuff,” they will. Whether it is deserved or needed.

    They will not care who has to pay for it because they believe it will not have to come out of their pocket.

    If the Richmond City Council believes the employees in Richmond should have a higher minimum wage, then let them vote on it and pass a law themselves.

    Resolutions and propositions are a way for the elected officials to cover their butts if there is any fall out from bad laws they pass. They can always say that it was “voter” driven.

  2. The following is a rehash of what I said on Tuesday night as well as a few things I was not allowed to say when I ran out of time (they started the clock before I even got to the podium):

    In a more perfect world we would all be paid a great salary for the work regardless of the market demand or the skills we possess. In that more perfect world we would never have to worry about the cost or the consequences of our actions.

    Do I need to remind everyone that we DO NOT live in that world?

    As well intentioned as this proposal is, it’s flawed in so many ways.

    First, Richmond does not live in a vacuum. We cannot change the world here in Richmond and expect the rest of the world to change along with.

    In particular, when we increase the wages for menial labor employees the companies they work for should not be expected to eat the increased costs.

    We have to know that they’ll pass along those costs to the consumer. And, unlike San Francisco we have options on where to spend our money. In San Francisco, if someone wants a cheap hamburger they’re not going across the bridge to Oakland or head south to Daly City. But here in Richmond we can always go to San Pablo or El Cerrito where the cost of labor is lower and the products these minimum wage workers make costs less. Why would I spend $16 for a bucket of KFC in Richmond when I can drive for a few minutes more and buy the same bucket for $12? Why would I buy my quarter pounder for $4 here in Richmond when I can go just down the street and get the exact same quarter pounder for only $3?

    Did the authors of this resolution even speak to any of these businesses to get their input about the effect it might have on their businesses? Or is this one of those times when they need to just stick it to businesses again? The authors admitted that they had submitted this proposal without consulting with local businesses.

    And what about those industries where tips are an integral part of the wages an employee earns and the costs that the business charge? Beauty salons, restaurants, barbershops, dog groomers, taxis? You’re not exempting them from the current minimum wage which requires a part of their wages to be made up of tips so those costs will really jump. When a Perm jumps from $50 to $65, will people still go to that beauty shop or will they go somewhere where they can get the same service for a whole lot less?

    And what about when the cost of a meal at their favorite restaurant jumps through the roof. Most of us here in Richmond aren’t as wealthy as the City Council members and can’t afford to throw our money around willy nilly like that. We need to pinch our pennies.

    This proposal has exemptions for businesses that employ fewer than 10 people but what that’s going to do is to force employers to discharge most of their part time workers and convert others to full time so they can get that exemption. What will that do to the teenagers that depend on part time jobs or the mothers trying to pick up a few extra bucks that will now lose their jobs?

    What I spoke about at that Council meeting was not against raising the minimum wage. What I was speaking about that night was about raising the minimum wage here in Richmond when the surrounding communities are still paying workers significantly less.

    This has a big impact on the businesses HERE IN RICHMOND. The cost of an item manufactured or sold here in Richmond will cost the employer more and this will be passed on to their customers. If the minimum wage were standardized in our community, then businesses would not have a competitive advantage over the same type of businesses in El Cerrito, San Pablo or Pinole.

    The small business exemption⎯where new and small businesses will have a competitive advantage over those businesses that are required to pay their employees the much higher wage⎯will give them a competitive advantage of businesses that have been around longer or are slightly bigger.

    I can easily see smaller businesses that have more than ten employees rework the way they employ people to get below that threshold so they can stay competitive. The difference between having ten employees and eleven employees will increase the labor costs by well more than 50%. How does this Council think this will affect the ability of that business to remain competitive?

    Why are we giving small businesses special privileges over longstanding businesses?

    Why are there so many holes in this resolution where the specifics were left out?

    And what will be the cost to put this on the ballot? In the past we’ve been told this would be something in the neighborhood of $65,000. Is that really considered “minimal” like was written in the agenda packet? And will the City commit any of their resources to get this measure passed? Without any formalized support from the City, why should we think that this measure could successfully go head to head against businesses like Wal-Mart, Target, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and the other bigger businesses that would be directly affected by this significant increase in the wages they have to pay their employees? Do you remember what happened when the City took on the soda people?

    Probably the most insulting event of the evening was when Councilmember Myricks chose to make a personal attack against a speaker (me) because I disagreed with this proposal. When one of the authors of this resolution states “it’s important that people participate in this democracy, that they feel empowered” and a co-sponsor and close associate of this Councilmember makes personal attacks against a speaker because he won’t drink the Kool-Aid, what does this tell you about the process?

Comments are closed.