City of Eureka "Fair Wage Act" Minimum Wage Initiative, Measure R (November 2014)

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The Eureka Minimum Wage Ordinance Initiative, Measure R, also known as the Eureka Fair Wage Act, ballot question is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Eureka in Humboldt County, California.

Measure R would, upon voter approval, increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour, with the exception of small businesses employing 25 or fewer workers.[1]

The minimum wage throughout the state of California was increased to $8 per hour on January 1, 2014.[1]

Again, the minimum wage statewide increased to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014, and was set to move to $10 per hour in 2015.[2]

Oakland voters have a chance this fall to raise the minimum pay in the city to $12.25 per hour. San Jose's minimum wage was raised by voters in 2012 according to Measure D and now stands at $10.15 per hour. San Francisco electors will vote in November on Measure J, which was designed to gradually raise the minimum wage from $10.74 per hour, California's highest as of September 2014, to $15 per hour by July 2018.[2]

Moreover, the city councils of Berkeley, Richmond and San Diego voted to increase the minimum wage to $12.53 per hour by 2016, $12.30 per hour by 2017 and $11.50 per hour by 2017 respectively. San Diego's council had to overrule a mayoral veto to finally enact its minimum page proposal.[3]

According to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a single worker in Eureka - as well as all of Humboldt County - is about $8.76 per hour. This goes up to $19.73 per hour for a single adult with one child and $17.81 for two adults with one child. The same calculating algorithm estimates Oakland's living wage for a single adult to be $11.51 per hour. It puts San Jose's at $12.01 per hour.[2]

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official title given to this initiative measure by the city attorney is:

Minimum Wage Ordinance[1][4]

EurekaFairWageActlogo.jpg

Summary

The city attorney provided the following summary of the Minimum Wage Ordinance:

If approved by the voters, this initiative would add a new chapter to the Eureka Municipal Code to provide that employers, who employ 25 people or more within the City of Eureka shall pay employees no less than a minimum wage of $12 for each hour worked beginning ninety (90) days after the approval of the initiative by voters.

Under the proposed initiative, beginning on January 1, 2014 and each year thereafter, the minimum wage would be increased by an amount corresponding to the previous year’s cost of living increase. The cost of living increase would be measured by the consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, U.S. City Average for All Items. The minimum wage requirement would be applicable to Welfare-to-Work programs subject to limitation that participants would not be required to work more than a number of hours equal to the value of all cash benefits received during the applicable benefits period. The minimum wage requirement would also be applicable to nonprofit corporations within eighteen (18) months after voter approval. The proposed initiative designates the City Attorney as the public official responsible for promulgating guidelines or rules to assist employers and employees in determining their rights and responsibilities under the ordinance; publishing the adjusted minimum wage each year; reviewing employer’s payroll records; investigating all reported violations, and; initiating a civil action or issuing administrative citations to employers who violate the proposed ordinance.[1][4]

Full text

Read the full text of the proposed legislation here.

Support

Supporters

A coalition of residents and groups called the Fair Wage Folks filed the petition for the "Fair Wage Act" and helped to gather the requisite signatures. This coalition included members who were active in the following groups:[5]

  • Occupy Eureka
  • Veterans for Peace
  • Richardson Grove Action Now
  • People Project
  • Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community

Arguments in favor

Supporters argue that a higher minimum wage has boosted the economy in other cities and could work in Eureka as well. They argue that, with more money to spend, the average worker will be able to live comfortably and put more money back into the economy, leading to a higher demand for goods and services and a more robust business base and job market.[2]

Verbena Lea, also known as Kimberly Starr, is one of the organizers of the Fair Wage Folks. She pointed to examples in San Jose and San Francisco to argue that Measure R will help Eureka's economy and to respond to opponents who say the opposite. She said, "The people who are against this say it will hurt the economy and mean a loss of jobs, but the data from places that have tried this shows that the opposite is true. Raising the minimum wage actually brings more jobs to an area. The businesses that already exist in the area do better, and new ones are created."[6]

Scott Myers-Lipton, a professor of sociology at San Jose State University, is responsible for a lot of work that inspired Measure R. He wrote, "Opponents painted a doomsday scenario, saying that jobs would be cut and employee hours reduced." But he responded, saying, "It is clear that raising San Jose's minimum wage has been an incredible success. The data shows that under San Jose's minimum wage, unemployment was reduced, the number of businesses grew, the number of minimum wage jobs expanded, average employee hours remained constant and the economy was stimulated."[6]

James Decker, a proponent of Measure R, said:

In the 13 states that raised their minimum wage last year, they had much higher growth — 25 percent more growth — than the states that didn't. It's a glaring difference. If you can stimulate demand at the bottom, you can get the economy going. But there's lots of resistance to this from people who are at the top end: the Waltons and the Koch brothers are notorious for trying to impose low wages on American workers. chambers of commerce and groups like the Restaurant Association of America are funded by large businesses, and they're constantly trying to claim that a higher minimum wage is a job killer. They've never been proven right by any data, but their interest is in keeping their constituents rich, so they continue to put out the same tired old story.[4]

—James Decker[6]

Raul Gardea, a political science student at Humboldt State University and a Fair Wage Folks volunteer, said:

It's really not about whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, it's about how much you value the work that people are putting into their workplaces and communities. Most people are pretty reasonable, and when we show them how this will benefit the whole community they've been very receptive. This measure may only directly affect about 1,500 workers in the city, but the entire community will benefit from the indirect effects like lower unemployment.[4]

—Raul Gardea[6]

Zack Thiesen, a local restaurant worker and a volunteer with the Fair Wage Folks said:

When you raise the minimum wage above the market wage, the old guard says it should lead to layoffs. But paying above the minimum wage inspires an effort above the minimum. It doesn't work the other way around.

I've worked at jobs where I worked really hard, but the raises just never come, even after years of service. And then you just move on and start over. When you pay people a poverty wage, treat them like they're utterly replaceable, make them work insane hours and multiple jobs so that it takes them over a decade to put themselves through school with any quality of life to spare, and call them unskilled, then don't be surprised when you come away with low morale, high turnover and terrible customer service. Employers who have voluntarily paid a higher wage have seen these elements of their business totally reversed.[4]

—Zack Thiesen[6]

Graphics contest

The backers of the proposed Minimum Wage Ordinance organized a contest to find the best graphic to represent the movement. A $100 dollar prize was offered for the graphic that took first place in the contest. Below are the two images that took first and second place in the graphics contest.[7]

Second place winner: Jaimal Kordes
First place winner: Talon Gibbs

Opposition

Opponents

  • Liana Simpson, president of Sequoia Personal Services

Arguments against

Liana Simpson disagrees with a minimum wage increase isolated to just the city. She said:[2]

This pits Humboldt County businesses against one another when competing for talent. I care about employees, workers, the area and the business community, but it's such a convoluted measure because it's not countywide — it's citywide. People from places like Arcata and Fortuna may be swarming into the Eureka market if they can, but Eureka won't be able to absorb those workers. A lot of current workers in Eureka will experience layoffs due to economies of scale — employers won't overnight be making a lot more money and something will have to give, which usually means layoffs. I think employers will have to cut back. Everyone's working on tight budgets as it is.[4]

—Liana Simpson[2]

Simpson went on to respond to arguments from proponents that put Berkeley and San Jose forward as examples of success with higher minimum wages. She said:[2]

It's comparing apples and oranges — they're very different economies. They can't say the minimum wage increases have improved the job market because the job market has improved. Period. I don't think people realize when the minimum wage goes up every other wage goes up, because the minimum wage sets a minimum standard. It's not about a livable wage. It's called a minimum wage for a reason.[4]

—Liana Simpson[2]

Simpson concluded:[2]

It allows for people to be hired with minimal skills. Employers are going to have to give employees raises to make it competitive for them, which skews all the theories of compensation, fairness and employment. It will be much harder for young people to secure employment because if the minimum is $12, employers will be forced to look for the highest skill set, and they can pull it out from Arcata and Fortuna and justify it because those employees may have more to offer.[4]

—Liana Simpson[2]

Don Smullin, executive director of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce said:

I don't see how it could generate enough money to generate the economy. It can increase expenses to businesses, which doesn't help the economy. Businesses don't have an infinite amount of money. When expenses go up, they have to cut or find more revenue. It's hard in a declining economy to find more revenue. The answer in Eureka is we need jobs.[4]

—Don Smullin[2]

Other opinions

Erick Eschker, a professor of economic at Humboldt State University, focused on whether businesses would cut employees or employee hours because of Measure R. He said:

You might find small effects in some industries like restaurants, the hotel and fast food industries — the businesses that have a lot of minimum wage employees — you might see employers laying off workers. It's probably no surprise why you see places have significant increases in minimum wage because of the rise of income inequality. It's well-documented that people are kind of fed up at the lower end, or even middle class, and want to see it go up. A better way to go about it would be earned income tax credit, which is taxing higher-income people more and taxing lower-income people less.[4]

—Erick Eschker[2]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

On February 7, 2013, minimum wage increase supporters turned in approximately 2,700 signatures to the city clerk. These signatures were verified by the city clerk and county elections office and the initiative petition was certified. This gave the city council the choice to pass the ordinance as presented or to set an election in which to present the ordinance to a vote of the people. The Eureka City Council voted 5 to 1 against enacting the ordinance, opting to put the measure on the November 4, 2014, election ballot instead. Linda Atkins was the only city council member who was in favor of enacting the ordinance rather than sending it down to a voter decision.[8]

Similar measures

Local

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Las Cruces Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Washington D.C. Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Increase Veto Referendum (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Act of 2014 Initiative (November 2014)
Approveda Philadelphia Minimum Wage Ordinance, Proposition 1 (May 2014)
Approveda City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Referendum (March 2014)
Approveda SeaTac "Good Jobs Initiative", Proposition 1 (November 2013)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Richmond Minimum Wage Increase Ballot Question (November 2014)

Statewide

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot California Minimum Wage Supplement for Home Health Workers (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Idaho Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Missouri Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot New Mexico Minimum Wage Amendment (2014)

See also

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