By Steven Tavares.
A successful substitute motion offered by San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter will give some small businesses an extra year to comply with the city’s proposed ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 an year by 2020. The change means the city’s minimum wage ordinance will not be approved until September when the council returns from its month-long August recess.
Under the original proposal by Councilmember Jim Prola, San Leandro’s minimum wage will increase to $12 an hour in July 2017 and raise one dollar a year before reaching $15 in 2020. Originally the ordinance made no distinction between the size of businesses.
Cutter, however, worried over the ability of some San Leandro small business to survive during the ramp up in the minimum wage, which would reach $15 almost two years before the state’s target for 2022.
Under Cutter’s compromise motion, San Leandro employers with 25 or fewer workers will have the wage bump delayed by one year, reaching $15 in 2021. Cutter’s motion was approved, 4-2, and followed by boos from the packed council chambers.
Prola and Councilmember Lee Thomas voted against the substitute motion. Councilmember Ursula Reed, a likely supporter of the original ordinance, was absent.
Cutter said, while she was swayed for the need to raise the minimum wage, she was also worried about its effects on small business owners. “I don’t think vilifying small businesses is the answer to this,” said Cutter.
Prola disagreed with Cutter’s assertion, saying numerous studies and data on raising the minimum wage show it actually helps businesses thrive. “I don’t believe small businesses are hurt,” Prola flatly said.
In addition to Prola, two other councilmembers gave passionate pleas for raising the minimum wage and helping the city’s low wage-earners. “I’m opening the door for families to put food on the table,” said Thomas, in a reiteration of comments he made two weeks ago.
Councilmember Corina Lopez recounted growing up poor in the Central Valley and living in residential hotels. “I think about people in the community being hungry,” she said, “and this barely keep them out of poverty.” Lopez, however, was the tie-breaking vote leading to approval of Cutter’s motion to bifurcate the minimum wage ordinance between large and small businesses.
Along with Cutter, Councilmembers Benny Lee and Deborah Cox voiced concerned for the city’s business community. Lee said the state’s recent minimum wage increase was sufficient for San Leandro. “I think we’re accelerating it too much,” he said of the city’s proposal. Cox, meanwhile, often sounded conflicted, vacillating between supporting workers and business. Both, though, backed Cutter’s compromise.
Few in the audience Tuesday night voiced opposition to the original ordinance. The San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, however, offered official opposition. Numerous residents strongly supported the ordinance, in addition to the Alameda Labor Council and the chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party Robin Torello, who slammed a city staff report for calculating only the cost of the ordinance to the city and not including an analysis of the minimum wage’s economic benefits.
A first reading of the ordinance will be scheduled for July 18, and likely followed by the full passage of the legislation sometime in September, said the city.