By Steven Tavares.

The minimum wage in San Leandro could reach $15 an hour by 2020, the city council proposed Monday night. If approved at the July 5 council meeting, San Leandro’s minimum wage would increase to $12 an hour starting in mid-2017 and $1 a year thereafter to $15 in 2020, according to a proposal offered by Councilmember Jim Prola.

“It’s a crafted compromise,” said Prola, “and it’s the only thing that I can get four votes at this time.” Support among his colleagues appeared strong. Councilmembers Lee Thomas and Ursula Reed voiced strong support, as did Corina Lopez.

If the council approves Prola’s proposal next month, San Leandro residents would earn $15 an hour 18 months before a majority of workers in the state.

“Fifteen dollars an hour isn’t going to solve all problems,” said Thomas, “but it’s a start.” He also expressed concern for those at low-wage jobs who struggle to feed their children. “At this point, we have a responsibility to help some folks as much as we can.”

Outside of Prola, the councilmember most interested in ramping up much sooner the city’s minimum wage was Reed. “The word ‘minimum’ in the dictionary means we’re just getting by,” she said. Lopez said it’s “unconscionable” that some major big box retailers like Walmart give more deference to their stock holders over the welfare of their workers.

In addition to a quicker wage increase schedule, the proposal put forth by Prola Monday night would not make any distinction between small and large businesses. He told the council that creating definitions for a number of different business types would unduly complicate the plan.

Mayor Pauline Cutter, possibly the most reticent of the minimum wage proposal, urged for specifics on how a minimum wage increase would be enforced by the city and whether additional money will need to be allocated to its next budget for a compliance officer.

Enforcement of the proposed wage increase, said Prola, would be based upon self-reporting by businesses and employees. It’s a model already used successfully, said Prola, with the city’s living wage ordinance.

The minimum wage discussion at City Hall has been a slow simmer, starting sometime last summer. Prola brought the issue to the City Council’s three-member Finance Committee in October 2015. The issue has been debated and shaped there for six of the last seven monthly meetings before coming to the full council on Monday night.
San Leandro has no minimum wage rules on its books. It currently follows the statewide minimum wage which is set to increase from $10 an hour to $10.50 beginning Jan. 1. It will rise again to $11 an hour in January 2018 and $1 per year through 2022, ending at $15 an hour.
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