Hayward is getting to $15 quicker than expected

Hayward councilmembers deliberating the city minimum wage increase on Feb. 4.

A push for Hayward to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour quicker than the state had languished for several years before it was resuscitated last fall.

Whatever difficulties city officials faced in the past with approving the wage bump for its residents had clearly dissipated Tuesday night when the city council unanimously approved increases to its minimum wage to $15 an hour, starting on July 1, for Hayward businesses with more than 25 employees.

It’s an increase of $2 an hour over the state-mandated $13 an hour initiated last month in Hayward.

In addition, minimum wage increases in subsequent years will be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

The move by the council is far more aggressive in bringing Hayward closer to the schedule that neighboring cities had enacted in recent years for accelerating the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Hayward staff had recommended the council approve a schedule that would have brought the minimum wage to $15 an hour for larger businesses starting in January 2021.

“We have consistently provided subsidies for businesses,” Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab said, “but we know wages have not kept up with the cost of living, and, I think, I’m tired of ignoring that fact, and it’s us that can actually make the difference.”

Wahab first offered the council referral to raise the minimum wage last fall.

Councilmember Elisa Marquez again urged the public to do their part and frequent Hayward businesses . “We’ve been hearing from the community for a long time the need to raise income so people can meet their basic needs. It’s not a livable wage. I think all of us get that, but it’s one step in the right direction,” she said.

When it became clear Marquez would support Wahab’s new motion, Councilmember Sara Lamnin immediately pinched the bridge of nose in a display of anguish. Marquez’s vote signaled the motion would likely receive unanimous support.

Lamnin acknowledged the existence of low wages and skyrocketing housing costs, but added, “The motion is not what we went to the community with. And so our goals of transparency, our goals of good communication and conversation are challenged. That’s a little bit difficult.”

Councilmember Al Mendall, who joined the council in 2014, said he had offered referrals for raising the minimum wage in Hayward on three unsuccessful occasions prior to Tuesday night’s vote.

While Mendall welcomed raising the minimum wage for large corporations like McDonald’s, he also voiced worry about how it will affect Hayward’s small businesses. “We’re probably going to lose some and that scares me,” he said.

Small businesses in Hayward, those with 25 or fewer employees, however, may have received a break due to an error in Wahab’s motion. A $1 escalator in pay for small businesses to reach $15 an hour in 2021 was accidentally omitted. After the meeting, Wahab acknowledged the mistake.

But workers at these small businesses will still receive a $2 an hour bump in pay to $14, starting on July 1.

Furthermore, yearly wage increases will also be tied to the Consumer Price Index, but not indefinitely. At least, until the rate automatically increase to $15 an hour in January 2023, according to state law.