Press Release: Berkeley City Council to hold special meeting on raising minimum wage

Stefan Elgstrand, Office of Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 10:48:00 AM

What: Berkeley City Council Vote on Raising the Minimum Wage

When: Thursday, August 11th, 2016, 6PM

Where: Old City Hall, 2nd Floor, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way

After years of discussion, debate, and negotiation, the Berkeley City Council will vote on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 at a special meeting tomorrow evening.

After efforts to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley stalled, a community-labor coalition circulated a citizens petition to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to raise the minimum wage in the City of Berkeley to $15 by 2017 and create a pathway aligning the wage with Berkeley’s Living Wage. After a successful petition drive, the City Council in response voted 6-3 to place a competing measure on the ballot which delayed implementation of a $15 wage until 2019 and included language requiring an onerous supermajority vote to raise wages or paid sick leave requirements.  


Union officials and community members were concerned that two competing measures on the ballot may result in voter confusion and both measures failing. This would keep Berkeley’s minimum wage at $12.53 without any increases, despite rising housing costs and planned minimum wage increases in other cities. 

To prevent a potential lose-lose situation, parties from both camps joined forces in a final and successful attempt to come to an agreement over how to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley. 

“Raising the minimum wage will help lift up working families who for too long have struggled to make ends meet” Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said. “Berkeley should be a leader in economic justice, but we have recently fallen behind other cities. This proposal will bring us back to the forefront and enable our communities and neighborhoods to remain diverse and prosperous”. 

Andy Katz, who facilitated the recent negotiations, said “this shows that the City Council can put Berkeley’s community first. This is a first step for working families to earn a living wage for their hard work and avoids a divisive and confusing campaign at the ballot box”.  

Berkeley is one of the most expensive cities to live in the country, with the average rent of a 2-bedroom apartment costing $2,935 in early 2016 – a 60% increase in just five years. With wages remaining stagnant, displacement has become a major issue facing many historically minority neighborhoods in Berkeley. While the state minimum wage will raise to $15 by 2022, Berkeley’s extreme cost of living has resulted in many calling for a stronger minimum wage. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin is available for interviews.