Alameda progressives stop minimum wage delay movement in its tracks

Alameda City Hall.

The push in the East Bay, started earlier this month in Hayward to delay a scheduled minimum wage increase for workers, appears dead in its tracks after the Alameda City Council turned away a proposal to study a similar action on Tuesday night.

Alameda beat“I want to make sure that we are exhausting all of our objectives for keeping businesses afloat,”Alameda Councilmember Malia Vella said.

Alameda councilmembers approved financial relief for small businesses on Tuesday night, including a $7,500 city grant program to help during the economic downturn caused by covid-19. Publicly-traded companies and financial institutions are excluded from the program.

Vella added, “I also don’t want to hurt the low-wage workers and their ability to pay rent and make up lost wages.”

Last week, Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie made it very clear that he would not support a delay, which city staff had proposed for up to one year. He called the idea a “colossal fuck you to low-wage workers.”

Alameda’s minimum wage will increase to $15 an hour for businesses, regardless of how many workers they employ, on July 1.

Opposition from Vella and Oddie to the proposal is not surprising. Both are the most progressives members of the five-person city council.

But any possibility the minimum wage delay would move forward was greatly diminished when Alameda Councilmember John Knox White mentioned earlier in the discussion that he would not support the proposal.

Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft suggested she would not support it, either. But earlier, she urged for a more robust discussion on the matter. “We could make this a third rail of local politics or have an intelligent discussion looking at the issue from all sides,” Ashcraft said.

Hayward’s surprising move to delay minimum wage increases, only approved less than two months prior, raised alarms among labor unions. The action delays Hayward’s increases for six months to Jan. 1, 2021.

Although it appears no other city in the East Bay is making an overt attempt to follow Hayward at this time, local business groups and the chamber of commerce in some cities have raised the subject behind the scenes.