Sacramento’s proposed minimum-wage increase is still two weeks away from its date with the City Council. But the fight is very clearly in full effect.
A large crowd of activists gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to protest a minimum-wage proposal because they said the hourly rate is too low and exempts some service-oriented businesses.
The plan drafted by a task force would gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $12.50 per hour by 2020. Following the meeting, two groups representing low-wage workers said they would likely join in a lawsuit against Sacramento if the City Council passes the ordinance on Oct. 27.
Besides objecting to the rate, many focused on a controversial provision that would exempt businesses if they can prove their workers take home at least $15 an hour with tips. That provision – known as “total compensation” – is supported by restaurant and business groups.
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However, in a written opinion delivered last week, state Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine’s office wrote that the total compensation proposal “would be pre-empted by state law.” The opinion also stated that tips collected by employees are the “sole property” of those workers.
Daniela Urban, executive director of the Center for Workers’ Rights, said in an interview after the meeting that “the city should be prepared for a lawsuit” if the City Council passes a minimum-wage ordinance that includes the total compensation section. And Fabrizio Sasso, head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, said his organization would likely participate in a legal challenge.
“If (the ordinance) is illegal and it hurts workers, it’s our obligation to be part of any effort (to challenge it),” said Sasso, who was a member of the 15-member task force that presented the proposal.
While Tuesday night’s council hearing on the proposal was procedural – it was on the agenda for a public review, but not for City Council action – Councilman Steve Hansen still voted no on the item. He said later that the plan is “not ready for prime time.”
Business groups continued their support of the proposal.
John Kabateck with the California Restaurant Association said “nobody got everything they wanted.” He called the plan “sound, fair and reasonable.”
Joshua Wood, head of Region Business, a business advocacy group, said the total compensation provision would protect restaurants that are operating on a small profit margin. Wood was also a member of the minimum-wage task force.
“We saw there was an adverse impact for restaurants because of their business model, and we need to account for that,” he said.