RICHMOND -- City leaders' effort to establish the highest local minimum wage law in the state is set for another showdown Tuesday, when the City Council is scheduled to hear results of a web-based survey of local business owners.
"I support the minimum wage hike in concept, but what I hear from this study is going to influence where I decide to go with this," said Councilman Tom Butt, the lone dissenting vote when the council passed a first reading of the ordinance in March.
What seemed like a foregone result to raise the local minimum wage gradually to $12.30 by 2017 was halted last month, as four City Council members rejected Mayor Gayle McLaughlin's push to enact the wage hike without a staff study into possible effects.
As word spread and opposition mounted, McLaughlin's coalition splintered and City Manager Bill Lindsay was directed to reach out to the local business community to solicit feedback.
The proposed law sets a transition period beginning with the effective date of the ordinance, usually 30 days after passage, and ending Dec. 31, during which the minimum wage would be $9.
The wage would rise to $9.60 in 2015, $11.52 in 2016 and $12.30 in 2017, which would be the highest in the state if no other cities adopt larger increases.
The ordinance would peg the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area each Jan. 1, beginning in 2018.
The state's minimum wage is set to bump to $9 per hour in July and to $10 per hour in January 2016.
Council members initially sought to put the hike to voters in November but then moved to pass it themselves, arguing there was no reason to wait to help struggling low-wage earners and noting a council decision could be easily tweaked as needed in the future, unlike a ballot measure that would require a new election.
Richmond has drawn widespread attention in the national debate over whether higher minimums help low-wage workers by giving them more money or hurt them because businesses can't afford to hire as many workers.
Other Bay Area cities have also opted to move ahead with higher wages, a regulatory approach traditionally led at the state and federal level.
San Francisco's $10.74 minimum wage is the region's highest. San Jose's rate is $10.15. Berkeley and Oakland are also mulling minimum wage increases and President Obama has urged raising the minimum wage nationally -- it is currently $7.25 -- but Republicans in Congress are opposed.
City staff and local business owners met at City Hall last week to discuss the issue. While most members of the public at recent meetings have spoken in favor of the wage hike, a few business owners have argued the ordinance would impair hiring and possibly push them to nearby cities, where the lower state wage prevails.
Lindsay said his staff's report will include feedback from local business owners that will show a range of responses, from those who favor the wage increase and say it will not affect their business to those who oppose the measure and say it could force them to downsize.
The higher wage, as proposed, would apply to most workers in Richmond but would exempt businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Butt has said he is interested in more exemptions, including for tipped workers and workers under age 18.
Richmond's unemployment rate is 11.5 percent, down from 18 percent in 2010, according to state Employment Development Department statistics.
What: Richmond City Council meeting
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Richmond City Council chamber, 440 Civic Center Plaza
Why: Discussion about potential minimum wage increase