The question of whether to adopt the highest minimum wage in the country at $19 an hour has been put before the Berkeley, Calif. city council in a proposal to be considered Tuesday night.
The proposal was recommended for consideration by the Berkeley Labor Commission. Currently the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour but many states, cities and counties have gone well above it. Several cities are on track towards reaching a $15 minimum wage but nowhere in the country has gone any higher. The proposal recommends gradually raising the minimum wage to $19 an hour by 2020.
“It is the view of the Commission on Labor that these amendments are necessary for a functional and fair minimum wage policy for the City of Berkeley,” the proposal, which was obtained by Berkeleyside, noted. “Furthermore, that such a policy is necessary for a healthy economy and for the ongoing welfare of the community.”
The proposal wouldn’t just raise the minimum wage. It also includes an automatic raise increases to match the cost of living starting in 2021. Additionally it will subject employers to a new system of mandatory sick leave and will clarify who can be exempt. The Commission estimates there will be little to no economic problems as a result.
“In the short term, the primary possible impact of these recommendations would be an increase in the amount of City Staff time spent on implementation and enforcement,” the proposal claimed. “In the long term, the City is predicted to directly benefit from the increase in tax revenues brought about by the elevated levels of consumer spending that occur when low-wage workers are lifted out of poverty.”
The proposal was drafted in response to a request made in 2013 by Mayor Tom Bates. As noted by the local affiliate of ABC News, at least one city council member is uneasy about the drastic increase and thinks its unnecessary. Berkeley is already on track to reach a $12.53 an hour minimum wage by 2016.
Though usually referring to $15 or lower, supporters of minimum wage increases often argue it will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessities. This in turn could stimulate economic activity. Critics, however, say such increase may actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities.
The potential for either outcome usually depends on the study. Nevertheless, even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees any increase of the minimum wage will likely result in at least some job loss.
Union-backed groups like Fight for $15 have been at the forefront of the current minimum wage movement. The group argues $15 is ideal for affording basic necessities. Others, like President Barack Obama, have pushed for a $10.10 minimum wage.
The few groups that have pushed for more than $15 tend to be socialist. This includes the Freedom Socialist Party which has advocated for a $20 an hour minimum wage.
While most economists debate over whether raising the minimum wage will hurt or help, some others argue it may not even be necessary. The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) found most workers are able to move beyond the minimum wage after only a year of employment.
At any rate, Americans for the most part overwhelmingly support moderate increases of the minimum wage. According to Gallup, upwards of 76 percent of people favor raising it to $9 an hour, while just 22 percent opposed the idea.
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