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Berkeley Mayor Proposes East Bay Regional Minimum Wage

The mayor's proposal rises from $9 on July 1 this year to $10.04 in October this year, an increase of 11.6 percent, followed by a boost to $11.20 in April of 2015.

The following tables illustrate the two paths to the estimated $12.53 wage in 2016
The following tables illustrate the two paths to the estimated $12.53 wage in 2016

Mayor Tom Bates is proposing that several East Bay cities, including Berkeley, join together to adopt a regional minimum wage.

The proposal comes as a number of cities in the East Bay are looking at local minimum wage proposals. A minimum-wage initiative is being circulated for the November ballot in Oakland. Richmond has passed the first reading of its own ordinance. And the Berkeley City Council has called a special meeting on May 1 to consider the issue.

There is considerable variation in the amounts and increases in the different city plans, as well as whether health benefits and sick leave are included.

“Instead of a potential hodgepodge or patchwork quilt of differing minimum wages among a cluster of nearby cities, I believe a uniform minimum wage across our city borders could alleviate complex, confusing and expensive burdens for local businesses and prove administratively advantageous for city staffs,” Bates said.

Bates proposes that Oakland’s ballot measure – which would rise to $12.25 next year and reach an estimated $12.53 by 2016 -- serve as the basic model. However, he recommends one significant difference: instead of a big, 36% jump in the first year as proposed in Oakland, he recommends a more gradual series of increases with a smaller boost in the first year. The latter method, he believes, would offer a smoother financial transition for employers and a more appealing route for the public as a whole. Under Bates’ plan, the minimum wage beginning in 2017 would rise annually in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Under the Oakland plan, CPI-determined increases would begin in 2016.

Mayor Bates’ proposal rises from $9 on July 1 this year (the state minimum wage on that date) to $10.04 in October this year, an increase of 11.6 percent, followed by a boost to $11.20 in April of 2015. Oakland’s minimum wage would jump from the $9 state minimum on July 1 this year to $12.25 in May of 2015. 

“I realize that each city may have different needs and different preferences for how to stagger increases until all reach the common target wage,” Bates said. “I recommend a graduated step-up as shown on the chart so that the impact is buffered by time. At the same time, I think there’s room for flexibility in individual cities having different ramp-up approaches in the first couple of years.”

Bates said he is not proposing that the regional minimum wage include provisions for health benefits or sick leave. 

“Those are certainly important components of compensation, but I believe they should be handled separately,” he said.

—Information submitted by Office of the Mayor

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