Pro-development group plans preemptive minimum wage counterstrike in Sacramento

November 2016 ‘countermeasure’ would cancel out any local effort to raise minimum wage

Although a local union leader denies preparing a November 2016 ballot measure to raise the city of Sacramento's minimum wage to $15 an hour, one group is forging ahead with its own measure to prevent such a jump. Just in case.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would erect an economic wall around Sacramento, claims Joshua Wood, executive director of Region Builders, the pro-development organization fighting the increase. If the city's lowest-paid workers start earning 50 percent more than those outside Sacramento, Wood predicted local businesses would leave or close. The manufacturing jobs that stay, he conjectured, would be automated.

In short, Wood said, the results would be “horrific.”

Region Builders is preparing a “countermeasure” for the November 2016 ballot, which, if passed, would in effect cancel out any competing measure to raise the minimum wage.

Sacramento Central Labor Council leader Fabrizio Sasso said his group isn't preparing such a proposal for next year, but defended the practice in other communities as smart business. “Read the research,” he said, pointing to San Jose, which raised its minimum wage from $8 to $10 in 2013, with annual cost of living increases.

According to several reports, the city has seen a decrease in unemployment and more money spent in the local economy. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council recently approved a tiered increase to $15 an hour by 2020.

Employers both big and small have an obligation to treat their workers fairly, Sasso said. He added that foreign trade policies destroy manufacturing jobs, not higher wages. “It's scary to look inward and adjust your business model,” he said. “I get that.”

Wood called raising the minimum wage an “important discussion,” but his group is still figuring out what it thinks a “reasonable” increase would be.

The two leaders have yet to discuss the topic in person, but both say they're hoping to work with the Sacramento City Council on the matter.