Forward of "Minimum Wage Betrayal by the Berkeley City Council! We're ready to fight back!" (Public Comment)

By Rob Wrenn
Wednesday May 14, 2014 - 06:08:00 PM

Below is an e-mail I received from Nicky Gonzalez Yuen via Credo Mobilize. I urge people to turn out to the Council meeting, as he suggests, to protest and to ask the Council to reconsider the higher minimum wage suggested by the Labor Commission. And please contact the mayor and your council member.

In San Francisco, the minimum wage rose to $10.74 on Jan. 1 of this year. A poll shows that a sizeable majority of San Francisco voters support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which would take place by 2017 under a measure proposed for November's ballot. In Oakland, activists have been gathering signatures for a Nov. measure that would raise the minimum wage to $12.25 next May.

Yet our City Council rejected all the good work done by the Labor Commission, and with Bates, Maio and Capitelli leading the retreat, agreed only to go to $10.75 an hour, and not until 2016. Clearly they listened to the special-interest pleading of Berkeley's Republican-minded Chamber of Commerce. It appears that we have a majority of Corporate Democrats on our City Council, who are ignoring the difficult situation of low-wage workers in an area with soaring housing costs. I have no doubt that if it was put to the voters, a $15 minimum would pass easily in this city. Maio is up for re-election this year and she should be held accountable for how she votes on this issue. 

"At last Tuesday's Berkeley City Council meeting, our movement was betrayed and the Council dealt a major blow to the minimum wage movement. 

At Raise the Wage East Bay we’re angry and ready to fight back! 

But first, for those of you who were not there, we wish to provide the following brief report of the council meeting: 

At its May 6 meeting, the Berkeley City Council betrayed the low-wage workers, progressives and economic justice advocates who have been working for over a year to pass a Minimum Wage Ordinance for Berkeley. After repeated promises over a 2 month period to support raising Berkeley’s minimum wage to at least $13.34, at the last moment Council Member Laurie Capitelli reneged and led the charge to derail the whole effort. 

At a certain point in the meeting, it seemed as though we might still win, with Mayor Tom Bates signaling that he would vote for the compromise measure we had worked out to raise the minimum wage to $15.02 by the year 2020 and thereafter index it to inflation. If we could have kept the mayor's support, we still would have had the 5 votes we needed to win. 

But then, Council Member Linda Maio spoke in opposition, turning the tide and lending support to the absurd argument by the Chamber of Commerce that they had not yet had enough time to contribute to the debate. The shameful truth was that the Chamber had stonewalled the process since the beginning, barring the chair of the Labor Commission's Subcommittee on the Minimum Wage from attending their meetings, discouraging its members from meeting with City Council Members who wanted to talk with them about their business problems and never once making any other proposal or suggestion for action other than "No." To us, it looks like the Chamber never intended to make a proposal of their own because their primary goal was to stall and sabotage. And they got exactly what they wanted. 

Mayor Tom Bates then switched sides and led a confused stampede in which the Council, on an 8-1 vote, adopted a minuscule increase in Berkeley's minimum wage that is barely 75 cents better than state law already requires. The measure they passed has no provisions for health insurance, paid sick days or even adjustments for inflation. 

This cannot stand. The Council will meet again on Tuesday May 20 at 7 PM for a second reading of this extremely weak ordinance. Please show up. Please contact your City Council and Mayor to demand a living wage now. The Council meets at the Old City Hall building, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Mayor Bates' phone number is: 510-981-7100. 

Even better: get involved in building this movement. Our coalition is meeting this coming Thursday May 15 at 6:30 PM in room 51 at Berkeley City College, 2050 Center Street. 

Join us. Fight back!"