By Steven Tavares.
California’s minimum wage could rise to $10.50 by the end of this year, if a bill backed by Gov. Jerry Brown is approved by the state legislature, and jump to $15 an hour by 2022. But in more affluent coastal cities around the East Bay, a steeper climb to $15 is needed for low-wage earners to survive.
In San Leandro, discussions for enacting a citywide minimum wage boost have been ongoing since last November.
San Leandro Councilmember Jim Prola, a top proponent for the raising the city’s minimum wage, says he will continue to push the City Council toward raising the rate to $15 an hour more quicker than the state’s pending legislation. The city has no minimum wage rate on its books and follows the statewide $10 an hour wage.
He tells the East Bay Citizen he will again bring the issue to the City Council’s finance committee, which has debated various proposal severely times since late last year.
Prola supports raising the minimum wage in San Leandro to $12 an hour by January 2017, although he prefers reaching $15 an hour by 2018. “I don’t think we can get there by 2018 because we started so late, but I don’t know why we can’t go to 12 next year and maybe go a couple bucks more after,” although he added, “I may not have the votes to do that.”
Last November, the three-member finance committee expressed surprising support for raising the city’s minimum wage at a more progressive rate. Prola had suggested tying the rate with San Leandro’s living wage ordinance, the wage it pays workers who contract with the city. That rate falls just under $15 an hour. But, over the next few months, the tenor of support for such a steep increase has dampened.
Some members have balked at a proposal to link annual increases in the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index, including Councilmember Benny Lee, who sits on the finance committee.
“We have a difference of opinion,” said Lee. “I really believe we need to support our local businesses.” However, Lee indicated he supports a tiered wage scale that requires corporations like Walmart and Home Depot, for instance, to paying higher minimum wages. “That money goes to Wall Street,” he said. “That’s doesn’t help us locally.”
Lee said Monday that he support San Leandro sticking with the state’s proposed plan to stagger increases over the next six years, if passed by the legislature.
The other five members of the City Council have also shown varying degrees of reticence toward how much the city’s minimum wage should increase and how quickly. Three members of the council and the current mayor registered support for raising the minimum wage during their last campaigns in 2014.
A state assembly committee moved Gov. Brown’s proposal forward Wednesday. If approved, the state’s minimum wage would increase to $10.50 in 2017; $11 in 2018; and $1 over the next four years.