Hayward is nearing an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, one year earlier than the state-mandated increase set for January 2023. The direction made by the Hayward City Council Tuesday night during a work session comes at a time when its neighboring cities have already accelerated their own local minimum wages in recent years.

Hayward beat“This is long overdue. I wish we did it five years ago when I first brought it up,” Councilmember Al Mendall said at a special council meeting held at the Matt Jimenez Community Center in South Hayward.

Mendall criticized multi-national corporations, such as McDonald’s, for their avarice by not paying more than the local minimum wage. “It’s the businesses paying workers $11 an hour to serve a $2 hamburger that makes my blood boil,” he said. The proposal before the council, however, does not specifically target corporations.

Mendall said he first made an inquiry for raising the city’s minimum wage in 2014, and again, in 2017. Later, a public speaker told him, “Thank you, Mr. Mendall, but what took you so long?”

Under the state’s schedule, the minimum wage will increase by $1 each year until reaching $15 an hour on Jan. 1 2023. The rate is adjusted for inflation thereafter.

The minimum wage in the state and Hayward is currently $11 an hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, and $12 an hour for those with 26 or more.

The proposed timeline under consideration by the council gradually boosts Hayward’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2022. The plan received support from a majority of the City Council during the work session Tuesday night.

We are far behind the eight-ball on this.-Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab noting that neighboring cities have already moved toward accelerating the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Under the proposal, Hayward’s minimum wage would increase to $13 an hour starting in July 2020 for small businesses and $14 an hour for large businesses. The tiered amount would then even out for both at $15 an hour on Jan. 1 2022.

City staff indicated they could return with a draft ordinance sometime in January or February 2020, meaning business owners would have roughly six months to prepare for a portion of the change. Neighboring cities that have accelerated the minimum wage to $15 an hour have typically given business 1-2 years to prepare.

Councilmember Aisha Wahab, whose support for renters has made her the darling of the city’s left, said the time frame for business owners is sufficient and suggested any difficulty they may face is far less than the tumult many evicted renters feel when they are abruptly evicted by landlords.

Wahab said 30-60 days was plenty of time for businesses to adjust to the increases. “That’s how long we tell people to pack their bags and leave,” she said, adding other other local cities have already increased their minimum wage in recent years. “We are far behind the eight-ball on this,” she said.

Alameda’s minimum wage was boosted to $13.50 earlier this year and jumps to $15 an hour in July 2020, the same period of time when Hayward’s proposed increase would go to $13 an hour. San Leandro will also reach $15 an hour in July 2020

Fremont, meanwhile, approved an $15 an hour minimum wage for businesses larger than 25 employees that begins in July 2020, but smaller businesses will reach the threshold in July 2021.

Kim Huggett, the president of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce warned the increases will stifle businesses, particularly independent restaurants. “The net effect will be job loss, increased automation, and fewer jobs for youth,” he said.

Geoff Harries, the owner of the popular Hayward restaurant Buffalo Bill’s Brewery labeled the movement toward increasing the minimum wage a scam that does not yield a net increase in wages for workers.

But other councilmembers also supported the proposed increases. “The community is correct on this one. The community needs a raise,” said Councilmember Francisco Zermeño, who added, the amount is still insufficient for the high cost of living in the East Bay.