On Tuesday, the Napa County Board of Supervisors will host a public hearing on a potential local minimum wage ordinance that goes beyond state and federal wage requirements.
Many members of our community will show up to make their voices heard. Some support an ordinance and will present why raising the local minimum wage is needed. Others will raise concerns and share how a potential ordinance could affect their business. Every perspective is important, and deserves to be a part of the discussion, an exploration of our options, and factored into the development of next steps.
The Napa Chamber of Commerce reflects the perspectives of a diverse business membership and we’re making every attempt to represent them — and when possible — speak with one voice. We’ve heard loud and clear from our members over the past several months that this is an issue they care about. Many local businesses that aren’t Chamber members have also expressed concern — and our goal is to ensure that their concerns are addressed, and that their questions are answered as this process moves forward.
Plenty of energy has been spent arguing for and against a possible ordinance, and it would seem that at this stage, that same energy could be more wisely spent collecting data and researching local impacts as part of a comprehensive economic study — one of several options that will be presented to the Board of Supervisors during their meeting.
We need to gather input and feedback from our community, and take the time to learn from other local governments that are addressing and implementing a similar local minimum wage ordinance. Napa County is not reinventing the wheel. Therefore, there’s absolutely no excuse for us not to get it right, or at the very least, better than Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. These cities are most mentioned in the argument to support the measure.
Does it make the most sense to compare Napa to those bigger markets? If so, shouldn’t we also be looking at why San Jose and Berkeley recently halted the process to implement the living wage? Have we taken the time to research the results of more like-size markets? If so, can we share that information as well?
In order for Napa County to get it right, if we decide that we are doing it at all, we have to do a better job of hearing how everyone could potentially be affected by this ordinance, not just those who support it. Big and small businesses, nonprofits, hotels and hospitality, social services, trades — everyone will be affected in a different way. Our local business community should have a place in this conversation.
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I’d like to encourage everyone who is interested in this issue to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting and simply prepare to be informed. Gain a better sense of what’s at stake so that we can properly engage. Realize that it’s difficult to engage in the discussion that must take place, without facts and information that are localized and relevant. Ask the right questions instead of repeating the published media reports that we all have access to.
If there is some timetable or urgency to get this ordinance in place, then I’m not aware of it. Wouldn’t supporters be satisfied knowing that, not only might an ordinance be in the works, but that if we choose to do so, we will implement the best, and most comprehensive, minimum wage ordinance possible? Will it have exceptions or will it be a uniform wage increase? How will it work with those that have business headquarters in other counties – like farm management companies – but that do business in Napa County? What about local businesses that operate in multiple local jurisdictions – will their wages change when they cross city limits? What is the amount of the increase: Is it $11, $12, or is it $15? Will it be phased in; and will that phasing schedule give everyone a better opportunity to prepare for it? How will a potential ordinance – should it pass – be enforced? We have key questions that still have no answers. And this community deserves those answers.
I respect the very difficult governing tasks and responsibilities of our supervisors, but it is possible for us to develop a system that addresses the needs of a wide range of employees and employers.
Our community prides itself on rallying around one another for important and meaningful causes, and I think we are all eager to help find solutions to issues that affect our everyday lives. Wages are only a part of the solution. Instead of the limited topic of wages — let’s start talking about income mobility and helping employees increase their skills. What do employees need so that they can play a role in their own success? Access to education? On-the-job training? Child care? Transportation? Housing? How can employees and employers be put in the position of being partners in individual and business success — rather than being positioned on two different sides of unnecessary battle lines?
Let’s work together – no need to divide and conquer on this one topic when our community has important issues we must address.
If it all sounds challenging and like a lot of work, that is because it is and it will be. But if we are all focusing our efforts into getting it right versus getting our way, we can make it happen.
Stanley is president and CEO of the Napa Chamber of Commerce.