Amid COVID-19 crisis, Hayward may delay recently passed minimum wage increases

Hayward City Hall

Since the coronavirus outbreak took full force last week, Hayward Councilmember Mark Salinas said he’s received numerous phone calls from small business owners in Hayward who are extremely worried about the dramatic loss in revenue due to the coronavirus, and specter of permanent closure of their local businesses. As a result, he said, many have asked for a delay in the city’s recently approved acceleration of its minimum wage due to begin on July 1.

Hayward beatOn Tuesday night, Salinas, along with Councilmembers Elisa Marquez and Al Mendall, offered a referral to direct city staff to study the impacts of delaying the scheduled $1 wage increase to Jan. 1, 2021. The council supported moving the item forward, 6-1. Councilmember Aisha Wahab voted against the referral.

The move by the three councilmmebers comes in the wake of already massive layoffs in the Bay Area related to the COVID-19 outbreak and shelter in place order given last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“I’m trying to preserve jobs,” Marquez said. “I’m fearful if we don’t do something to help these businesses, people will be out of work.”

Councilmember Sara Lamnin, who voted for the minimum wage ordinance last month, said Tuesday that the wage bump actually foments jobs loss. “Minimum wage increases do eliminate jobs, and in a time like this, we need to preserve them,” she said.

The councilmember’s proposal would realign Hayward with the state’s mandated schedule to reach $15 an hour all workers employed by businesses with more than 25 employees by 2022. Those with 25 or fewer would reach the same threshold in 2023.

The minimum wage in Hayward is currently $13 an hour for large businesses, and $12 an hour for smaller ones. An ordinance to accelerate the minimum wage in Hayward to $15 an hour for large businesses, and $14 an hour for smaller ones, starting on July 1, was unanimously approved by the city council on Feb. 4.

The quick reversal comes after many of Hayward’s neighboring cities in Alameda County had approved similar accelerations of their minimum wage, in several cases, nearly two years ago. Hayward’s own school district passed a resolution in January 2017 to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for unrepresented district employees.

Earlier in the meeting on Tuesday night, the city council approved a 90-day emergency moratorium on all residential evictions for non-payment resulting from loss of income related to the coronavirus. But the moratorium did not include commercial evictions.

Angela Andrews, a member of the Hayward Planning Commission and declared candidate for the city council in the fall, said eviction relief for commercial tenants would be a better solution for helping struggling local business owners. “That is where they are making their largest payments, she said of their monthly rent payments. “We need to keep those dollars in the workers’ hands. To delay the minimum wage increase is going to do workers and residents a disservice.”

Reducing scheduled minimum wage increases in Hayward contrasts the strategy the federal government approved, also Tuesday night, to pass a $2 trillion relief bill intended, in some part, to encourage people to stimulate the economy with a quick infusion of $1,200 checks. The relief bill also includes $367 billion to help small businesses.