Business Owners Weigh-in on Richmond Minimum Wage Debate

The Richmond City Manager’s office, at the request of the City Council is disseminating a web-based survey to solicit feedback from local business owners regarding the impacts of the proposed ordinance to increase the minimum wage.

The City Manager will analyze the survey results and make a report at the upcoming City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 6.

Some people are saying that the the survey, which comes following the proposed ordinance, suggests the City Council put the “cart before the horse” when it introduced the ordinance prior to engaging the business community, which has concerns about the implication of the law for their firms and employees.

“There is outrage from local businesses that wanted to be a part of the discussions prior to introducing the legislation,” said Christina Phipps, office manager, Richmond Chamber of Commerce.

“They [local business owners] are not in favor (of the ordinance) and have compelling evidence of how this will affect businesses in this area,” she said.

Phipps said business owners want people to have a living wage pay, but are concerned about rising operating costs such as insurance.

She says a number of business owners have mentioned potentially closing or moving their businesses as a result.

City Councilmember Courtland “Corky” Booze says he completely understands the brewing frustrations expressed by local business owners.

CorkyBooze

Councilmember Corky Booze

“There should have been some involvement from the business community that informed the crafting of the ordinance. If the City Council had involved all parties, we would not have this problem,” he said.

Booze said he shares the business community’s disappointment and believes the proposed minimum wage hike is being used as a “political football” as the election nears.

Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, author and co-sponsor of the proposed ordinance, says she conducted preliminary research before bringing the initiative to the City Council.

“I talked with community groups, and people were saying, ‘Let’s just do this. We need it now,’” she said.

When asked if she thought a minimum wage increase should be enacted by municipal government or if it instead should be left to the state or federal governments, she replied: “The federal government is not going to do it. With Congress blocking everything and in this political climate, this issue has to be addressed locally.”

On Tuesday, April 29, local business owners met the City Manager’s office and city council to discuss their concerns.

Business owners complained that the City Council nor City Manager’s office have not produced any empirical evidence to support claims that the ordinance will be successful. They reject the notion that successful wage increases in San Jose and San Francisco will yield similar results in Richmond.

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Councilmember Jovanka Beckles

“We are not San Jose and San Francisco,” said Steven Ramm, owner of Palace Furniture in Richmond.

“We haven’t studied the demographics, we don’t know the math,” said Ramm. How can we make a decision like this without due process?”

With California’s minimum wage set to increase to $9 on July 1, one business owner proposed the City Council table the ordinance and see how this increase impacts Richmond’s economy.

Other business owners want to know how the city will enforce the ordinance and whether it will cover nonprofit agencies and providers of services to youth and people with disabilities.

However, Michael Davenport Jr. General Manager, D.P. Security in Richmond was overall supportive of a minimum wage ordinance.

 

“ We support people earning more money and have always supported the idea of living wage pay,” he said.

“(It) will have minimal effect on us – we already pay $10 (an hour).”

 

“(But) as the pay goes up there is the likeliness that we will have to pass some of the costs on to our clients by increasing prices,” said Davenport.

 

 

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