Sacramento mayor launches study of higher minimum wage

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, shown last year, on Tuesday launched a task force of business, community and labor leaders that will study possible minimum wage increases and report back to the City Council.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, shown last year, on Tuesday launched a task force of business, community and labor leaders that will study possible minimum wage increases and report back to the City Council. Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento may soon join the growing number of cities in California and elsewhere boosting minimum wages for employers higher than those required by the state or federal government.

Mayor Kevin Johnson on Tuesday formally launched a task force of business, community and labor leaders that will study possible minimum wage increases and report back to the City Council. The 15-person group will hold the first of five scheduled public meetings Wednesdayat City Hall.

Johnson has not suggested a new minimum wage level for Sacramento but has spoken repeatedly about income inequality, saying he believes the issue is both a national and local priority.

“The task force will determine what makes most sense so that working adults can earn enough to support their families and make their way into the middle class and that small businesses can continue to grow and prosper,” Johnson said in a news release. “Every Sacramentan should feel that if they work hard and play by the rules, they can succeed.”

In launching its effort, Johnson and the city of Sacramento join a much-debated political, social and economic topic.

The state minimum wage, which applies to Sacramento, stands at $9 an hour. But that number already is on the way out. The state minimum will rise to $10 an hour on Jan. 1. That figure could be usurped by a new bill that recently passed the state Senate to bump the lowest hourly pay scale to $11 instead on Jan. 1, then to $13 in 2017. Gov. Jerry Brown’s finance officials oppose the bill, saying they believe the increases will hurt the state economy.

A handful of California cities in recent years have decided not to wait for the state.

In San Francisco, Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, minimum hourly pay will hit $15 in the next few years. Oakland raised its minimum wage to $12.25, with annual cost-of-living increases. Other cities have posted more modest increases.

Last week, the University of California joined the movement, saying it will gradually raise the minimum wage for its employees to $15 an hour.

Johnson chose two advocates for better wages as co-chairs of the city committee: City Councilman Jay Schenirer and Elizabeth Landsberg of Western Center on Law & Poverty. Landsberg’s group is co-sponsoring the proposal to increase the state minimum wage to $13.

Schenirer told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday he believes the city should increase the minimum wage, but he did not suggest a specific amount.

“Personally, I think if you have two working spouses and they (make) under the cost of living in their area, that just doesn’t make sense to me,” Schenirer said.

Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific, warned of a potential pitfall. If the city minimum wage is much higher than that of the surrounding area, “it would be an advantage to those businesses outside the city boundaries. It would create an incentive to locate outside the city boundaries.”

Schenirer said he expects that concern to be discussed by the task force. A more important question, he said, will be what minimum wage exemptions the city should allow. Should nonprofits, small businesses, student employees and interns be excluded?

The issue has sparked divisions among city labor and business leaders. Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and a member of the mayor’s task force, said his group’s recent polling showed support for a $13.50 minimum wage. But Joshua Wood of the Region Builders business group said a higher minimum wage could hurt the city’s competitive standing in the region. Wood also is on the task force.

The mayor chose several representatives of major statewide business organizations for the task force: Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association, and Bill Dombrowski, president of California Retailers Association, as well as Peter Tateishi, president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Condie, in an emailed statement, suggested he will look out for local restaurants that sometimes work on thin profit margins.

“I appreciate being part of this task force on an important issue for small and local restaurants who are leading regional growth and putting Sacramento on the map as one of the more exciting dining destinations in the state,” Condie wrote. “I’m hopeful the outcome will ensure our regional competitiveness for both employees and small business.”

Johnson also included union leaders from Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades and Service Employees International Union Local 1000.

“It’s got to make sense for everyone,” Johnson previously said when announcing his intention to create the task force. “It’s clear there’s no one-size-fits-all, and it’s going to take a collective voice in our community” to reach a plan.

The initial task force meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers, 915 I St. It will include a presentation from United Way representatives about the increasing cost of living and a report from California State University, Sacramento, business professor Min Li on the types of people in Sacramento County who make minimum wage.

Although the group has been tasked with producing a report in 60 days, co-chair Schenirer said on Tuesday he thinks the group is likely to wait until fall to see whether the state legislation becomes law.

Task force members:

▪ City Councilman Jay Schenirer

▪ Elizabeth Landsberg, Director of Legislative Advocacy, of Western Center of Law and Poverty

▪ Jot Condie, President and CEO, California Restaurant Association

▪ Bill Dombrowski, President and CEO, California Retailers Association

▪ Kevin Ferreira, Executive Director, Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades

▪ Marcus Gomez, Board President, Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

▪ Jeff Harris, Councilmember, District 3

▪ Stephanie Nguyen, Executive Director, Asian Resources, Inc.

▪ Rachel Rios, Executive Director, La Familia Counseling Center

▪ Fabrizio Sasso, Executive Director, Sacramento Central Labor Council

▪ Ashlin Malouf Spinden, Executive Director, Sacramento Area Congregations Together

▪ Peter Tateishi, President and CEO, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce

▪ Yvonne Walker, President, SEIU 1000

▪ Stephen T. Webb, President, NAACP

▪ Josh Wood, Executive Director, Region Builders

$9 and up

Some minimum wages in California:

State minimum wage – $9, going up to $10 in 2016 (Proposed: $11 in 2016, and $13 in 2017)

San Francisco – $12.25, up to $15 in 2018

Oakland – $12.25

Richmond – $9.60, up to $12.30 in 2017

San Diego – $9.75, up to $11.50 in 2017

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