Virus May Delay Minimum Wage

Virus outbreak causes city council to reevaluate impact of wage increase on local economy.

Since the coronavirus outbreak took full force last week, Hayward Councilmember Mark Salinas said he’s received numerous phone calls from small business owners in Hayward worried about the dramatic loss in revenue due, and specter of permanent closure of their businesses. He said many have asked for a delay in the city’s minimum wage, which is due to begin on July 1.

On Tuesday night, Salinas, along with Councilmembers Elisa Marquez and Al Mendall, asked city staff to study the impacts of delaying the scheduled $1 wage increase to Jan. 1, 2021. The council supported moving the item forward, 6-1. Councilmember Aisha Wahab voted against the referral. The move by the three councilmembers comes in the wake of already massive layoffs in the Bay Area related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’m trying to preserve jobs,” Marquez said. “I’m fearful if we don’t do something to help these businesses, people will be out of work.”

Councilmember Sara Lamnin, who voted for the minimum wage ordinance last month, said Tuesday that the wage bump actually foments jobs loss. “Minimum wage increases do eliminate jobs, and in a time like this, we need to preserve them,” she said.

The councilmember’s proposal would realign Hayward with the state’s mandated schedule to reach $15 an hour all workers employed by businesses with more than 25 employees by 2022. Those with 25 or fewer would reach the same threshold in 2023.

The city’s minimum wage is currently $13 an hour for large businesses, and $12 an hour for smaller ones. In February, the council unanimously approved an ordinance to accelerate the minimum to $15 an hour for large businesses, and $14 an hour for smaller ones, starting on July 1.

The quick reversal comes after many of Hayward’s neighbors approved similar accelerations of their minimum wage, in several cases, nearly two years ago. Hayward’s schools increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour for unrepresented employees in 2017.

Angela Andrews, a member of the Hayward Planning Commission and declared candidate for the city council in the fall, said eviction relief for commercial tenants would be a better solution for helping struggling local business owners.

“That is where they are making their largest payments, she said of their monthly rent payments. “We need to keep those dollars in the workers’ hands. To delay the minimum wage increase is going to do workers and residents a disservice.”

Newsom Supports PG&E’s Bankruptcy Exit Plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom has reportedly signed off on PG&E’s latest plan to exit bankruptcy, over a year after the utility filed for bankruptcy protection.

The news brings PG&E one step closer to exiting bankruptcy by June 30, the deadline that the publicly-traded utility needs to meet in order to access a $21 billion state “wildfire fund,” established by AB 1054, state legislation signed into law last summer.

Under AB 1054, the utility still needs to gain final approval from the bankruptcy court and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) by June 30 to access the funds. Additionally, under PG&E’s deal with Newsom, the utility will appoint a “chief transition officer” and begin a process to sell the company, Bloomberg recently reported.

“This is the end of business as usual for PG&E,” Newsom said in a statement. “We secured a totally transformed board and leadership structure for the company, real accountability tools to ensure safety and reliability, and billions more in contributions from shareholders to ensure safety upgrades are achieved.”

The largest remaining hurdle may be winning approval by the CPUC, which has yet to determine whether or not PG&E’s plan meets the guidelines laid out in AB 1054. Among those guidelines is a requirement that the utility’s plan does not burden ratepayers with additional costs.

“We really want to make sure that … ratepayers aren’t going to be charged more for PG&E getting out of bankruptcy, that there’s not going to be a bail-out of the PG&E bankruptcy,” Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, told Utility Dive in a recent report on the issue.

San Leandro Labor Agreement Fails to Materialize

A development agreement last month for Monarch Bay, a potentially game-changing waterfront housing and retail project at the San Leandro Marina, was contingent on the developer and local trade unions agreeing to a project labor agreement by the end of the business on Mar. 25. But the Mar. 25, 5 p.m. deadline came and went without a signed agreement.

While there was overwhelming council support for the project backed by Cal-Coast Companies LLC, several were concerned about the lack of a signed project labor agreement. To assuage their concerns, a 30-day deadline was added to the motion to approve the project’s Disposition and Development Agreement. But negotiations continued up until the last minute. San Leandro Economic Development Manager Katie Bowman met with the developer and labor as late as Wednesday afternoon, but no deal was signed prior to Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline. However, it was indicated an agreement in principal had been struck, but would not be signed until Friday.

It’s unclear what happens next. Administrators had no power to extend the deadline, since it was a council action. San Leandro councilmembers do not meet again until April 3. It is possible they could vote to approve an extension of the deadline.

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