Public Comment

New: Living Requires a Living Wage

by Harry Brill, Co-Coordinator East Bay Tax the Rich Group
Saturday March 22, 2014 - 10:53:00 AM

I would like to urge you to attend the Berkeley City Council meeting on April 1, 7pm to persuade the Berkeley City Council to enact a minimum wage ordinance for working people in Berkeley. The living wage movement is a national movement that seeks to abolish poverty wages. In the last several decades the buying power of the minimum wage has declined considerably, which has further eroded the standard of living for millions of individuals and families. The problem has become so severe that many of these family are forced to rely on government programs, including the food stamp program and a heating allowance. 

The recently enacted California minimum wage law increases the minimum wage to a mere $10 an hour in 2016. It neither includes a cost of living inflation adjustment nor medical benefits. In short, it fails to lift minimum wage workers out of poverty. By contrast, the ordinance submitted to the Berkeley City Council by its own Labor Commission, chaired by the highly committed advocate, Sam Frankel, while not perfect, is far more generous. The minimum wage would begin with $10.74 an hour in businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and beginning on June 30, 2016, it will be increased every year by 55 cents until it reaches a living wage. Also, wages will be adjusted for inflation. And businesses that do not provide health benefits will be required to pay an additional $2.22 cents an hour. Businesses with over 50 employees will be required to pay $13.34 per hour in addition to the annual 55 cents increase, the inflation adjustment, and the $2.22 for medical benefits. 

The business community, particularly the restaurant industry is howling, as if the ordinance would precipitate another 1906 earthquake. Employers warn of businesses closings, substantial layoffs, and consumers finding more consumer services and goods unaffordable. The evidence, however, refutes their warnings. In San Jose, for example, unemployment declined after a minimum wage law was enacted. Not surprising because higher wages have increased spending power. 

In fact, take a look at Berkeley's experience. In the year 2000 it enacted a living wage law that applies to firms that do business with the city or who reside on property belonging to Berkeley. They protested then as they do now. Workers covered by the act now earn $13.34 an hour plus $2.22 for health benefits for a total of $15.56 per hour. And business since then have been doing fine. 

To counter the enormous pressure from many in the business community, please let City Council members know that you strongly support the minimum wage ordinance.  

Contact information is below. No matter where you live, please contact Mayor Bates and Councilman Capitelli, who is interested in being the next mayor. Also contact the council member who represents your district.


Finally, please come to the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 1, 7pm. City Hall is on MLK between Allston and Center Street. We will probably have a short rally at City Hall at 6:30pm.

District Incumbent Phone Email
Mayor Tom Bates (510) 981-7100
District 1 Linda Maio (510) 981-7110
District 2 Darryl Moore (510) 981-7120
District 3 Max Anderson (510) 981-7130
District 4 Jesse Arreguin (510) 981-7140
District 5 Laurie Capitelli (510) 981-7150
District 6 Susan Wengraf (510) 981-7160
District 7 Kriss Worthington (510)981-7170
District 8 Gordon Wozniak (510) 981-7180
p.s. Our East Bay Tax the Rich Group will be rallying on the living wage issue Monday, March 31, 5-6pm. near the top of Solano Avenue.