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Minimum Wages Raised in Seven Bay Area Cities, Up To $16.30/hour

San Francisco and six East Bay cities each raised their own minimum wages on Monday, July 1, according to a schedule of annual increases that now sets minimum wages from $13.50/hour (Alameda, Fremont) to $16.30/hour (Emeryville) in those cities. Minimum wages in San Francisco and Berkeley went from $15 to $15.59/hour, while minimum wages went from $13.50 to $15/hour in Milpitas and from $13 to $14/hour in San Leandro. Thirteen other Bay Area cities, have also adopted minimum wages higher than California’s statewide minimum, which is now $11/hour for small businesses (25 or fewer workers) and $12/hour for large businesses (26 or more workers) and will rise to $15/hour for all businesses by 2023.

Emeryville, which has since July 2015 matched San Francisco’s minimum wage increases set by that city’s Proposition J in 2014, now claims the highest minimum wage (for all workers) in the United States, at $16.30/hour. Since July 2015, Emeryville had set a higher minimum wage for large businesses (more than 55 workers) and a lower wage (equal to San Francisco’s) for small businesses, but applied the higher wage to all businesses on July 1, 2019. After intense lobbying by business owners, Emeryville’s City Council tried in May to “pause” minimum wage increases for small businesses at $15/hour for another year and maintain a two-tier minimum wage structure until 2027, but a voter referendum petition was submitted to the city on June 25, blocking this action and maintaining a minimum wage of $16.30/hour for all businesses.

Emeryville’s trendy retail and restaurant businesses are thriving while paying the nation’s highest minimum wage of $16.30/hour.

“Rent increases are not going to pause, and health care costs are not going to pause, ” objected Alameda County Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Ortega-Toro at the May 21 Emeryville City Council meeting. The labor council opposed the $15/hour minimum wage freeze and helped organize the voter referendum against it.

Until Monday, the cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale had boasted the highest minimum wages in both the region and nation, at $15.65/hour since January 1. Now that wage is exceeded only by Emeryville, although San Francisco and Berkeley are close behind at $15.59/hour. The differences between the cities’ minimum wages result from different dates at which each city set its own minimum wage to $15/hour, as the wages are adjusted upward each year according to the local rate of inflation. None of the Bay Area minimum wage ordinances envisions that all workers be paid a Living Wage, although such a proposal was recommended by Berkeley’s Labor Commission and rejected by the Berkeley City Council in September 2015.

While twenty cities in the San Francisco Bay Area have set their own minimum wages above the state’s $11 or $12/hour minimum wages, the remaining 81 cities have taken no action at all. None of the nine Bay Area counties (except San Francisco) have adopted any minimum wage ordinances either, so businesses located in any of the region’s unincorporated areas are allowed to pay state minimum wages as well.