Nearly two years after a referral first asked staff to study the effects of raising Alameda’s minimum wage, the City Council will look at a proposal later this month that increases local wages to $15 an hour by July 2020. If approved, Alameda’s minimum wage would reach the threshold 18 months before the state’s mandate in 2022. Alameda’s current minimum wage is $11 an hour.
Moving up the timetable for reaching $15 an hour is not unique in the East Bay over the past few years. In fact, Alameda is somewhat late to the game. Workers in Emeryville already enjoy a $15 minimum wage, and Berkeley is set to cross it in October. More similarly to Alameda’s proposed plan, San Leandro approved a timetable in September 2016 that gradually raises the rate to $15 by 2020.
The plan recommended by Alameda city staff on Sept. 18 proposes to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by July 1, 2019 and to $15 an hour by July 1, 2020. No bump in pay would be set for 2021, but an increase based on the Consumer Price Index , capped at 5 percent, would come into effect on July 1, 2022.
The recommendation provides no distinction between small and large businesses. San Leandro’s minimum wage increase originally contained a one-year exemption for small businesses. But the carve-out was later removed.
Implementation of the minimum wage ordinance and salary compaction will cost the city $757,000 through 2020, city staff estimates, along with $57,000 for education and enforcement of the proposed new ordinance.
Under the current state law, Alameda’s minimum wage is set to increase from $11 an hour to $12 on Jan. 1.
The minimum wage referral was first proposed by Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer, but was not heard during a council meeting until last April. It is not clear, however, whether Spencer supports the slight acceleration in reaching $15 an hour quicker than the state law.
During a mayoral debate last month, Spencer refused to answer a question on the minimum wage, saying she did not want to prejudice her decision-making before hearing the actual proposal at the council. Spencer’s response that night, however, was peppered with suggestions indicating she worried the increase in the minimum wage would negatively effect small businesses.
Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Frank Matarrese–both are challenging Spencer’s re-election this November–also sidestepped a firm stance on the issue before it comes before the full council. During another candidates forum including Alameda City Council candidates last month, the field of five appeared supportive of the general idea of raising the minimum wage. Former Councilmember Tony Daysog, however, advocated for an exemption for “small mom-and-pop” businesses.