At its meeting Monday, the Redwood City council directed city staff to take a number of steps to mitigate impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on residents and small businesses. Agreeing to discuss delaying a possible minimum wage increase in 2021 was not among them.
Council rejected the idea of reviewing in October whether a minimum wage increase, set to be adjusted based upon the Consumer Price Index in January, should be postponed due to the economic hardship facing local businesses during the pandemic. In January, the city’s minimum wage rose to $15.38 per hour from $13.50, per an ordinance passed in 2017. From 2020 on, the wage is set to be adjusted annually based upon Consumer Price Index.
Julie Lind, executive secretary and treasurer of the San Mateo County Central Labor Council, spoke against any delay to a increase, should the CPI warrant one, saying minimum wage workers “now more than ever need as much stability and security as possible.”
“Many of them have huge health care deductibles in a time when quality health care has never been more critical, particularly as many of them are serving as frontline workers in grocery stores drug stores, delivery services, and restaurants,” Lind said. “Should there be a CPI increase, we respectively request the January 2021 minimum wage increase proceed as scheduled.”
Lind had support on council.
“I don’t even believe this discussion should be on the table,” Councilmember Giselle Hale said. “This effects some of our most vulnerable workers, when they are out there, putting themselves on the line every day for everyone in society…I think it sends the wrong message to them and to our community about the vital work they are doing.”
Hale and other councilmembers pointed out the CPI may not even increase given the grim economic picture.
The city should be prepared to dip below its rainy-day fund minimum to support residents and businesses in the months ahead, said Councilmember Ian Bain.
” I clearly heard a majority of the council say we don’t want to do anything that’s going to harm our minimum wage workers. We still want people to make a living, but at the same time we want to ensure our businesses are going to be able to make their ends meet,” said Bain, adding, “This is the biggest emergency we’ve seen since serving on the council.”
In other related decisions Monday, council directed staff to waive late penalties for waste, water and sewer bills from March through August for residents and businesses; appropriate $393,000 to an emergency rental assistance fund; contribute $300,000 to the San Mateo County Strong Fund supporting relief efforts for small businesses; and temporarily adjust downtown parking zones to favor takeout and delivery service.