Citing the sky-high costs of living in Palo Alto, a group of City Council members is leading a push to adopt a local minimum-wage ordinance.
In a memo released Thursday, Councilmen Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Tom DuBois and Cory Wolbach are calling for staff and for the council's Policy and Services Committee to consider a law that would "set a near term base wage, inflationary adjustments and long term goals." It does not specify what the new minimum wage should be.
"Despite our general affluence, along with high costs of living and working in Palo Alto, we currently have the same minimum wage as low cost regions of California and lower minimum wages than some neighboring cities," the memo states.
Though the council has yet to wade into the issue, the proposal is expected to move forward without much delay. At a forum before last November's election, almost every candidate responded to a question about raising the minimum wage with an emphatic "yes." This included both DuBois and Wolbach, with the latter responding to a potential $15-per-hour minimum wage proposal by saying, "I'd go for $20."
Council members Eric Filseth, Greg Scharff and Karen Holman all said before election day that they would support raising the minimum wage, though they didn't get into specifics of what it should be.
"This is a very progressive community and sometimes it's a little surprising some of things we haven't yet addressed," said then-candidate (and now Mayor) Holman. "I think this is one of them."
Filseth also said that while he would "absolutely" support a higher minimum wage, he was uncertain what the exact number should be.
Under the new proposal, staff would analyze recent minimum-wage ordinance in Sunnyvale and Mountain View and model Palo Alto's new law after those. The Mountain View council last October voted to raise the city's minimum wage to $10.30 an hour, with annual inflation adjustments, effective July 1, 2015. Sunnyvale's ordinance, which does the same thing, took effect on Jan. 1.
California's minimum wage is currently set at $9 an hour, which will increase to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016. In the memo, the four councilmen argue that if minimum wage was adjusted based on local cost of living, they would be "considerably higher in Palo Alto and the peninsula than most elsewhere in the state."
"Our lowest wage workers perform valued services in Palo Alto and often have to work multiple jobs with long commutes to barely make ends meet," the memo states. "A local minimum wage would be a modest step in supporting these workers who are vital to maintaining the services we value and that are essential to our local economy.
"In addition, the strength of our community and society relies on maintaining a level of economic fairness and opportunity for all. This measure will be a modest but constructive step toward providing adequate income for all."
The full council is scheduled to discuss the memo on Feb. 9 and is expected to refer the subject to its Policy and Services Committee for further analysis and, ultimately, a recommendation. The memo also directs the committee to explore with staff "a strategy for outreach/education" and "investigation and enforcement of violations."