The city of Richmond has taken a step closer to having the highest-paid minimum wage workers in the state.
The City Council voted at its Tuesday night meeting to approve a first reading of an ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage from the current state rate of $8 an hour to $12.30 by 2017.
The council approved the wage hike and rejected two other proposals to raise the minimum wage to $11 or $15.
The second reading of the ordinance is set for next month. The minimum wage is set to be phased in gradually beginning about 30 days after adoption, according to city officials.
During the transition period, the city’s minimum wage would increase to $9.60, and in 2016 it would bump up to $11.52, reaching $12.30 in 2017.
The council was initially slated to put the minimum wage proposals to the voters this November, but city leaders opted instead to vote on the ordinance themselves.
In a letter to her fellow council members urging them to forgo a ballot measure, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin cited “overwhelming support” from constituents polled about a potential minimum wage hike and “little opposition.”
Councilman Tom Butt, the lone dissenting vote on the wage hike on Tuesday, said that while he supports the measure he would prefer to delay a vote on the issue until city staff can complete an analysis detailing the consequences of the wage increase. The analysis would include potential adverse affects for local businesses, he said.
In a poll of about 75 residents on Butt’s website, most respondents favored a minimum wage increase, with the majority preferring the $11 rate.
The Richmond Chamber of Commerce conducted its own poll of about 20 people, according to chamber office manager Christina Phipps.
About half of those respondents were opposed to raising the city’s minimum wage.
“Increasing beyond the state’s minimum wage will force businesses to make to do with current staffing and hinder additional hiring,” one respondent wrote. “Worst yet, it might even create cut backs in employment.”
According to city staff documents, the cost of living in Richmond is about 20 percent above the national average.
If the minimum wage hike is adopted, it will make Richmond’s minimum wage the highest in the state and one of the highest in the nation.
Currently San Francisco and San Jose have the state’s highest minimum wages at $10.74 and $10.15 per hour, respectively.
Meanwhile, California’s minimum wage is set to bump up to $9 in July and to $10 in 2016 and President Barack Obama has proposed to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
Voters in Chicago on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a non-binding referendum expressing support for a $15 minimum wage for large employers in the city, according to the National Employment Law Project, an organization that promotes worker rights and job creation.
“Chicago and Richmond are just the latest in a new wave of cities acting to raise the minimum wage this year,” said Paul Sonn, general counsel for the organization.
“With inequality at record levels, more workers relying on public assistance just to afford the basics and the federal minimum wage stalled at $7.25, more and more cities are responding with higher minimum wages at the local level,” he said.
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