Hayward officials ‘regrettably’ delay minimum wage increase for six months

Hayward councilmembers participating in Tuesday night's meeting via teleconferencing software.

Workers earning a minimum wage in Hayward will not receive a previously promised $2 an hour raise for, at least, another six months, the Hayward City Council decided on Tuesday. A majority of the council, some voicing regret for delaying the scheduled increase from July 1 to Jan. 1, 2021, made the decision in order to boost local businesses that are struggling during the covid-19 pandemic.

Hayward beatThree of the four Hayward councilmembers who supported the delay, cast their voice vote with “regrettably yes.”

Councilmembers Mark Salinas, Al Mendall, Elisa Marquez supported the item, along with Mayor Barbara Halliday.

A referral on Mar. 24 asking city staff to study the minimum wage delay was approved, 6-1, with Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab voting no.

Tuesday’s vote, however, revealed tension some councilmembers may be feeling as result of the move to reverse course on a city ordinance to accelerate the minimum wage in Hayward that was only approved on Feb. 4.

I am absolutely disgusted…-Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab

Several amendments were offered by councilmembers Tuesday night, including a proposal to exclude some of the city’s largest employers from the delay, and a plan to raise the minimum wage by just $1, instead of $2, on July 1. Each change was resisted by Mendall, the maker of the motion to approve the staff’s recommendation.

“It think it’s the right thing to do,” Salinas said of delaying the minimum wage increase. “Right now, everybody in our city needs help.”

Councilmember Aisha Wahab, who authored the referral to raise Hayward’s minimum wage last fall, lashed out against Tuesday’s vote, saying the proposal is “unjust and cruel to hurt the lowest paid employee any time, let alone during a pandemic.”

“I am absolutely disgusted that some are saying they want to protect the most vulnerable in our community and the first course of action during a worldwide pandemic is to reduce the paycheck of our most exposed workers,” Wahab said.

In an oddly stilted discussion between Marquez and city staff on Tuesday night that she admitted included leading questions, Paul Nguyen, the city’s economic development manager, said delaying the minimum wage would allow struggling Hayward small businesses to keep their doors open during the crisis. When Wahab asked how the delay would help low-wage workers, Nguyen said it would mean workers would have a job to come back to.

City staff believes the delay will save Hayward businesses an estimated $3,500 per employee through the end of the year.

Last February, the council voted to accelerate its minimum wage from the state’s current $13 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees, and $12 an hour for smaller businesses by $2 starting on July 1.

Tuesday night’s discussion, which occurred via teleconference due to social distancing protocols, likely highlighted the city’s potentially contentious council elections coming this November. Marquez, Salinas, and Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, who voted against the delay, are up for re-election. Two-term Councilmember Al Mendall announced in February that he will not seek re-election.

Two potential progressive challengers registered strong criticism of the council decision on Tuesday night, calling it a “disgrace,” while labeling each who support the delay as anti-worker and anti-poor. The rhetoric appeared to get under the skin of each council incumbent. “I think to use that language in this context of a pandemic is really showing very poor judgment,” Salinas said.

The Hayward city official also made additions Tuesday night to its recently approved moratorium on evictions for those affected by covid-19. The original ordinance focused on residential tenants. The new ordinance now also includes protections for commercial renters, owner-occupied residents with mortgages, and a prohibition against property owners charging late fees.