ISSUES | Jobs
Before Council Again on May 6
Minimum Wage Delayed for More Info
by Marilyn Langlois & Mike Parker
Richmond’s minimum wage ordinance was delayed by the February 15th Council meeting.
The second reading of the ordinance was on the consent calendar and was pulled by a business owner who said he’d have to fire everyone and move his business (28 employees, about half of whom are paid minimum wage) if this ordinance is adopted. (Considering that he’ll have to raise the wage from $8 to $9 in July anyway when the state minimum wage goes up, it is hard to believe he won’t be able to raise his workers’ wage from $9 to $9.60 in Jan. 2015.) A number of businesses in Richmond recognize the poverty level of minimum wage and support its increase. Many already pay well more than the minimum wage.
A majority of the Council (Bates, Booze, Rogers, and Butt) felt that the vote should be delayed some to allow more people, especially in the business community, to be heard and to get the city report on the impact of the proposal. All said they favored an increase in the minimum wage.
There was an additional wrinkle, when Tom noticed an error in the wording of the proposed ordinance which would cause confusion about when the $9/hr wage would first come into effect. Because the ordinance would need to be corrected for this, when it comes back to the Council on May 6, that will be its first reading.
What seems to get lost in the technicalities discussion is that it is not right that people work at a wage where even with full-time work they cannot get out of poverty. Even if a few jobs are lost (most studies find very little job loss) minimum wage workers as a whole benefit from the increase. Further, the increase provides a stimulus to the local area economy, thus increasing the number of available jobs.
Why the Minimum Wage is Good for Richmond
by Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles
The first reading of the new minimum wage ordinance passed at the City Council March 18. The final vote is scheduled for the meeting tomorrow, April 1. The ordinance will phase in a minimum wage of $12.30/hr. [See article below.]
Richmond is attempting to solve several issues at the same time. One, we are helping residents by providing a wage that will help more families live with dignity. Two, we are helping businesses. When residents have more to spend, more disposable income, they spend it. When they spend it, demand increases. When demand increases, business improves; businesses thrive. When business improves and thrive, more people get hired. When those who want to work work, we create a healthy thriving city.
Minimum wage increases have been shown to act as a stimulus to those cities where it was raised. A recent article in the San Jose Mercury stated, "A year later, 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."
In fact, I know several Richmond employers who already pay their employees at least $12 an hour and they are quite successful. They shared with me that when employees make a wage that they can live on, turn over is low thus allowing for stability in their business.
There are some who say Richmond isn't in a bubble. We can't just raise it in Richmond and not have it affect businesses negatively because people can shop in the nearby cities. We are not in a bubble. But when other cities see the difference that it makes here in Richmond, the people will demand change in their cities as well.
FDR once said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
Raising the Minimum Wage $12.30/hr
By Patsy Byers
Our effort to boost the minimum wage took a big step forward Tuesday March 18th, when the Richmond City Council voted 6-1 for $12.30/hr, to be phased in by 2017. Mayor McLaughlin, who co-sponsored the initial resolution with Vice Mayor Beckles and Councilmember Myrick, moved to accelerate the process from a November ballot initiative to a council vote, saying: "Why not sooner rather than later?" The measure still must pass a second reading next month.
City staff and advisers developed a plan to limit the raise to no more than 20%/yr, consistent with research that showed this incremental change does not adversely impact the number of jobs. Businesses with less than 10 employees will be exempted, as will some summer job and training programs. After reaching the $12.30/hr rate, an annual cost of living raise would follow. The chair of Richmond's Chamber of Commerce, Michael Davenport, said his organization recognized the need for a wage increase.
Kudos to all those who called, emailed, held signs, spoke to the Council, and - yes - applauded in support.
While the wage increase will undoubtedly help the lowest paid workers, their families, and the local economy, it is still well below the current Living Wage for an adult working full-time supporting a family. [Click here for MIT study.] Richmond is part of a regional economy and getting too far ahead of the surrounding area could end up damaging city efforts. But by passing this measure Richmond is leading the way and encouraging the surrounding cities to move ahead and hopefully start a "virtuous cycle" or a race to a true living wage for our residents.
LBNL CHOOSES RICHMOND
I received a call this morning from Paul Alivasatos, Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, informing me that they have decided to make the Richmond Field Station and the City of Richmond the home for their second campus.
I would like to thank the Richmond City Council for their enthusiastic support for this important economic development project, the many City of Richmond staff members who worked to provide technical support in the decision-making process, and the Richmond community for providing the warm welcome mat that was undoubtedly a major factor in their decision.
I will provide more details as they become available. In the meantime, please enjoy this great bit of news and let's look forward to continued success.
Thanks to all who helped make this possible through letters, presentations, your presence at Richmond's rally, and leadership from Councilmember Jeff Ritterman, Bill Lindsay and the city staff.
See RPA Statement
RPA Welcomes LBNL Campus to Richmond
Green Campus/ Green Jobs for Richmond
The RPA strongly supports the efforts by the city of Richmond to promote Richmond as the best place to locate the proposed Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories second campus.
We believe that this is an excellent fit.
We in Richmond are on the cutting edge of the green economy already. We have won the Contra Costa sustainability award for the government sector. We are number 1 in the bay area for solar installed per capita. We have over 50 core green businesses, dealing with green products and services and countless businesses ‘greening’ their business practices in one way or another.
We have an internationally-renowned green job training program that specializes in training our residents in solar installation, weatherization, and green building practices.
We have been designated an official ‘Green City’ in California and we are part of the East Bay Green Corridor which has been officially designated as a “hub of green innovation” by the State of California. We have cutting edge ordinances, policies and initiatives in place and many more to come.
Richmond has excellent connectivity to the region and state through I 80/580 freeways, and BART/AMTRAK The soon to be re-constructed Ohlone Greenway and the Bay Trail offers non-motorized connections with Berkeley. The Bay Trail provides for excellent recreation and access to beautiful shoreline areas. Richmond has created ambitious pedestrian and bicycle plans, which greatly aid mobility and accessibility around Richmond for all modes of travel.
The location of the LBNL in Richmond fits well with our attempt to transform our economy to one based on 21st century jobs and the new green economy. Not only will it provide direct jobs for construction and operation, but it will provide many indirect jobs though services required, spin offs, and most importantly, green oriented businesses choosing to locate nearby, attracted by this research center.
Richmond has informed and engaged residents who are eager to work with the City, LBNL and all other involved parties towards maximizing everyone's benefits from having LBNL located here. If the Richmond Field Station site is selected, LBNL would have the opportunity to collaborate with Richmond's Southeast Shoreline Community Advisory Group, which has been studying this area of the city for the last six years and is well-equipped to partnering with experts from LBNL in addressing issues of existing toxins at the site.
We believe the commitment of the city to welcome good paying jobs, in a healthy environment, that contribute to protecting the environment and improving the conditions for humanity will be enhanced in this process.
We welcome the LBNL to Richmond.
-RPA Steering Committee 2/4/11
-illustration: David Moore
The Mondragon Cooperative Experience -
A Model for Richmond?
Full employment for Richmond will take ideas and action at a number of levels, from demanding that the Federal Government start a major program for rebuilding our infrastructure, to helping small businesses in Richmond, to making Richmond a still more desirable, safer community whichcan atttract new businesses. One new possibility is promoting co-operative enterprises. The Mondragon coperatives are the most well known. They employ over 100,000 people. Recently they have assisted the Evergreen Co-operative in Cleveland, collaborated with the United Steel Workers in adapting collective bargaining to the co-op process, and worked with Austin Polytechnic High School in Chicago, to prepare students in low-income neighborhoods to start cooperative high tech manufacturing. In September Gayle attended a conference in Mondragon (no city funds were used).
Gayle McLaughlin Reports
Imagine a world where businesses derive their power from the people who work there and capital is used as a tool to serve the people, instead of the other way around, as is the case with conventional corporations. A world of true workplace democracy, where each worker has an equal say in how the business is run. A world where workers pool and leverage their resources to start new businesses and create new jobs. A world where top managers earn no more than 6-7 times the salary of the lowest paid workers and everyone has a secure and decent standard of living. A world where education, training and innovation are abundant. A world without lay-offs.
I had the opportunity to immerse myself in just such a world last week in the Basque region of Spain, where I attended an intensive five-day seminar at the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, along with 25 worker cooperative enthusiasts and practitioners from all over the US and Korea. The first Mondragon cooperative started 56 years ago with a few people under the visionary guidance of Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, and it has grown into an extensive network of 120 industrial, financial, retail and education cooperatives with over 16 billion euros in sales and employing about 100,000 people.
There is a great deal of collaborative and cooperative spirit in Richmond, and numerous residents and City staff have indicated to me their interest in exploring the possibility of starting worker-owned cooperatives here. Given the need to think outside the box in addressing our high unemployment rate, Richmond could provide fertile ground for implementing this model of job creation along with other strategies.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Mondragon's Director of Cooperative Dissemination, Mikel Lezamiz, and I signed a letter of intent and endorsement to pave the way for initiating conversations with stakeholders in Richmond and beyond. I want to share with you what I learned and also hear your ideas.
Paving the Way for Worker Cooperatives in Richmond
| Janeasy, Raymond, Luis and Patricia of Toxic Soil Busters and Youth In Charge youth co-ops chat with Shyaam Shabaka at Richmond's EcoVillage Farm
What if people who need a job got together, pooled their skills, secured funding and technical assistance from a variety of available sources, collaborated with labor unions, and formed democratically run, worker-owned cooperatives?
There are worker co-ops in other parts of the world, nation and Bay Area, and the time is ripe to bring them to Richmond as a worker empowerment-based model of economic development and job creation. Mayor McLaughlin intends to pursue this strategy during her next four years in office. She was invited to attend a seminar in Mondragon, Spain in mid-September to learn about the expansive Mondragon worker-owned cooperatives, which have flourished for over 50 years in what was once an empoverished region with high unemployment.
As a prelude to this seminar, the Mayor asked me to attend on her behalf the annual conference of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, held Berkeley on Aug. 6-8. Numerous workshops and tours of local co-ops were highly informative and inspirational. Of particular relevance to Richmond:
1. One session featured speakers from the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative of Cleveland OH, which was launched in 2008 by a collaboration of foundations, the city, non-profits and the grassroots aiming to stabilize and revitalize low income neighborhoods, and leverage a variety of resources for start-up support. So far, three worker-owned co-ops have been formed: an eco-friendly laundry that has contracts with Cleveland's major hospitals, a solar installation and weatherization company, and a greenhouse operation to provide fresh, local lettuce throughout the frigid mid-West winter. Evergreen founders consulted extensively with co-op practitioners in Mondragon to bring the idea to fruition.
2. Another session focussed on how Labor Unions and Worker Cooperatives can complement each other's efforts to promote shared goals of workplace democracy, economic security for workers, on-going training opportunities, and benefit to the community. A representative of United Steel Workers discussed the collaboration agreement signed by USW and Mondragon last year He currently works for a solar manufacturing plant in Southern California that exports all of its product to Japan, and suggested that workers and unions could start their own businesses producing for the local market. A representative of AFSCME emphasized that resources of unions could be shifted from the adversarial struggles with the bosses to providing technical support for the development of worker-owned co-ops whose members would then join unions. There are numerous co-ops whose worker-owners are already union members, such as Inkworks Press in Berkeley.
3. A high energy session was presented by two young women from Toxic Soil Busters, a youth co-op in Worcester, MA that employs 14-18 year-olds part time doing soil testing and lead remediation with plants and other means in the yards of older low-income neighborhoods. A partner youth co-op, Youth In Charge, does landscaping work on the other side of town, and both operate with support and grant-funding from the non-profit Worcester Roots. After the conference, four youth from Toxic Soil Busters and Youth In Charge paid a visit to Richmond, touring EcoVillage Farm, the RYSE Center and the Mayor's office.
For more information on the background of cooperative movement and the USFWC conference, read the Aug. 3 article in the Berkeley Daily Planet
The Richmond area has another introduction to co-ops with the exciting outdoor August 25 performance Posibilidad by the San Francisco Mime Troupe in Richmond's Civic Center Plaza.
--Photo by Vivien Feyer