Minimum wage hike proposal stalls as council seeks further study

Sales tax rates in El Cerrito and Richmond increase on Wednesday

More study is needed before Richmond’s minimum wage can be increased to $12.30 an hour, which would be the highest in the state, Richmond City Council voted this week.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s attempt to push through the wage proposal without a study by city staff was criticized by several councilmembers, including Tom Butt.

Butt said that although he supports a wage increase, he argued the mayor and her Richmond Progressive Alliance allies “rammed it down our throat” and “refused to listen to anybody’s ideas.”

Initially the plan was to let voters decide on the wage increase in the November election. However, the mayor decided the increase should come sooner and crafted the proposal as an ordinance that gives City Council the power to enact it. Butt said McLaughlin and the RPA failed to consult fellow councilmembers before doing so, forcing them to vote on an issue that hasn’t been fully vetted by city staff.

While the first reading of the ordinance in March passed 6-1 by council, several councilmembers had a change of heart when casting what could have been the final vote to enact the wage hike on Tuesday.

A local business owner who spoke at the hearing complained that the business community wasn’t consulted about the wage proposal. Louis Buty, owner of American Textile and Supply on Regatta Boulevard, warned that he might have to lay off members of his 28-person staff if the proposal passes.

The mayor and RPA apparently thought the increase would be voted-in Tuesday without question. The RPA’s new website, which was created to promote RPA candidates in the upcoming elections for mayor and city council, contained this notice Thursday:

minimumwageIf it passes, the minimum wage hike would be phased in. The current minimum of $8, which is also the state’s minimum, would increase to $9 this summer. It would go up to $9.60 in 2015, and then to $11.52 in 2016 and $12.30 in 2017. Beyond 2017, the minimum wage would reflect cost of living adjustments.

San Francisco’s minimum wage is currently the region’s highest at $10.74 an hour, while San Jose’s is $10.15.