Minimum wage rally in May 2014 in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor
A minimum wage rally in May 2014 in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Starting today, Oct. 1, a new minimum wage goes into effect in Berkeley with a citywide rate of $10 an hour. This is a dollar higher than the state’s minimum and puts Berkeley among the American cities that have a local minimum wage that exceeds state and federal minimums.

The move is the first step in a three-stage plan that sees today’s hike to $10, followed by increases annually for two years after that: on Oct. 1, 2015, to $11; and on Oct. 1, 2016, to $12.53. This last rate will match the amount expected in Oakland under a ballot measure in that city likely to pass in November. The Berkeley plan received final approval in an unanimous council vote June 24.

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage to date of what led to the minimum wage raise.

“[The] boost to $10 is an important milestone in our efforts to improve the conditions and rights of low-wage workers in Berkeley,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

Tuesday night, Berkeley City Council members also voted unanimously to send the minimum wage issue back to the city’s Labor Commission, with a request for more outreach to the local business community, to investigate issues such as adding features like sick leave accrual, health benefits and other elements.

“This referral would enable the City to move ahead in making the minimum wage changes more comprehensive. This is a beginning of what will necessarily be a more studied approach as we consider how to advance more just compensation,” wrote Councilwoman Linda Maio in a brief report on the referral.

The path to the new law in Berkeley has been far from straightforward. After a lengthy review by the city’s Labor Commission dating back to the summer of 2013, the council struggled over how to structure its minimum wage plan. The proposal also met with resistance, not least from small business owners who worried that the move was too far and too fast.

Mayor Bates is also advocating a regional approach to the minimum wage.

“I have proposed that other East Bay cities join with us in adopting a regional minimum wage and am pleased that discussions for such an approach are underway in some of our neighbor cities,” he said in a statement released on Sept. 30.

Berkeley’s effort to raise the minimum wage is among many similar undertakings around the state and country. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which many say is much too low and has been been essentially flat for decades.

This story was updated shortly after publication to reflect council action taken Tuesday night.

Berkeley sets new minimum wage to reach $12.53 by 2016 (06.27.14)
Berkeley officials hold off on minimum wage task force (06.04.14)
Berkeley minimum wage plan passed, new initiatives loom (05.21.14)
Council boosts minimum wage, approves task force to look deeper (05.07.14)
Op-ed: No tip penalty — one fair minimum wage for all (05.05.14)
Berkeley could OK raised minimum wage plan this month (05.02.14)
Berkeley Mayor proposes East Bay minimum wage (04.22.14)
Berkeley Council hears minimum wage increase pleas (04.03.14)
Op-Ed: As a restaurant owner I question minimum wage process (07.02.13)
Minimum wage ‘tip credit’ idea gets cold shoulder (06.21.13)
Berkeley considers city-wide minimum wage hike

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...