Friday, April 24, 2015

Santa Cruz City Council Members to Initiate Discussion of Local Minimum Wage

Mayor Don Lane, Vice-Mayor Cynthia Mathews, and Council Member Cynthia Chase have submitted a proposal to be heard by the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday, April 28 which if passed, will direct city staff to research the subject of a local minimum wage.

The minimum wage is currently $9.00 an hour in California, and is scheduled to raise to $10.00 an hour in 2016, as set by state law. Communities across the state, however, have created higher minimum wages for their localities either by the voters passing ballot initiatives or through the action of city councils. "The Fight for 15" has become a common rallying call for those advocating for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage.

Lane, Mathews, and Chase have not suggested a specific dollar figure they have in mind for a minimum wage in Santa Cruz in the agenda report they submitted to the city council.

The agenda report states: "While the issue of income equality is an important reason to consider adopting a local minimum wage for Santa Cruz, the exact level of a minimum wage level which is fair to City residents and the business community is a much more complex matter and requires careful consideration and discussion. For this reason, we are asking the City Council to consider starting this discussion by first seeking professional technical assistance to help determine a potential minimum wage that best meets the various needs of our community, focused on employers with five or more employees."

In 2006, a campaign to create a living wage in the City of Santa Cruz met opposition from the likes of Neal Coonerty of Bookshop Santa Cruz (who was Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz in 1994) and other downtown business owners, such as Lou Caviglia, the owner of Clouds and Louie's Cajun Kitchen (both businesses have closed since that time) and Mark Guluarte, the owner of Acapulco Restaurant (which also eventually shut down).

The minimum wage increase was ultimately unsuccessful when put before voters in Santa Cruz in 2006. To defeat the measure, a coalition of businesses, which included Bookshop Santa Cruz, raised about $100,000. Supporters of the living wage, which included labor unions, only raised about $30,000, according to reports.

The current city council proposal represents a completely different dynamic at play, seeing that Chase, Mathews, and Lane are indicating a certain level of support for a local minimum wage right out of the gate, and they only need the vote of one more council member to move forward.

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