Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
The Berkeley City Council will have an unusual special meeting Friday morning (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso

Remember the special Berkeley City Council meeting on the minimum wage that didn’t happen?

On Aug. 10, the City Council hurriedly announced a special meeting for the following day. The two often-divided wings of the council had seemingly agreed wording for a new, accelerated raise in the minimum wage that would remove the need for dueling ballot measures in November. But in the 24 hours between announcing and holding the meeting, the council failed to summon a quorum. Only council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Darryl Moore showed up.

The council is trying again, with a special meeting called for the unusual time of 11:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26, in the council chambers in Old City Hall. In this second effort, four council members — Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste, Linda Maio and Susan Wengraf — have jointly submitted a new ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 on Oct. 1, 2018, one year earlier than the council-approved ballot measure and one year later than the union-supported measure. 

Jesse Arreguin. Photo: courtesy Jesse Arreguin
Arreguín: ‘I’m satisfied with the compromise.’ Photo: Jesse Arreguín
Arreguín: ‘I’m satisfied with the compromise.’ Photo: Jesse Arreguín

The proposed ordinance also raises paid sick leave to 72 hours for employers of 25 or more persons, eliminates the health care credit, and phases out a youth training exemption by 2020.

“We wanted to involve as many stakeholders as possible,” said Droste. “I’m very excited about the potential for a compromise.”

“I’m satisfied with the compromise,” said Councilman Jesse Arreguín. “This is an important step. Moving forward the date for us to reach $15 an hour will help working families in our city. I wish we had reached this point sooner.”

“This agreement shows that the City Council can put the community first and is an important step forward for working families to earn a minimum wage for their hard work,” said Andy Katz, a workers’ rights attorney and EBMUD board member who has been active in bringing together council members and SEIU leaders to achieve a compromise.

The compromise ordinance at tomorrow’s meeting was hammered out by the four council members, labor representatives and business lobbyists.

What Katz and others hope to avoid is two dueling minimum wage measures on the November ballot. Katz said he believes that both the SEIU and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce have agreed to campaign against both ballot measures if the new ordinance passes. Even though there are no institutional supporters for the measures, they will still appear on the ballot.

“I was concerned about having two measures on the ballot,” Arreguín said. “It may have resulted in nothing passing. Avoiding disaster is a good thing.”

The council measure (Measure BB) would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, double paid sick leave from 24 to 48 hours per year, provide for a health care credit, and provide a youth training exemption. The labor measure (Measure CC)  would raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2017, and continue increases with CPI plus 3% up to the City Living Wage (approximately $20 per hour in 2023).

Council cancels special meeting on minimum wage (08.11.16)
Special Berkeley council meeting announced to vote on compromise minimum wage (08.10.16)
Berkeley Council approves alternative minimum wage measure for ballot (06.15.16)

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...