Calif. city at odds over tip-credit proposal

When the Sacramento City Council takes up a minimum-wage proposal next month, the debate may not be so much about the amount. A tougher issue may be the exemptions.

Those exemptions were recommended by a committee of union and business representatives as a way to soften the blow of a wage hike for organizations that might have trouble complying with the minimum, which would rise to $12.50 by 2020.

The proposed exemptions extend to younger workers, employees receiving tips, people in training programs and workers with health care benefits that raise their overall compensation by at least $2 an hour.

Any exemptions to a higher minimum wage would not only matter to affected businesses, but they could also determine whether organized labor decides to campaign for an even higher minimum wage in a local ballot drive next year.

“It depends on the council to make the right decision -- and if they don’t, then we have to make that decision for Sacramento,” said Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council.

“All these exemptions are bad," he added. "These are bad for workers."

Some proponents of a higher minimum wage claim the Sacramento proposal contains far more exemptions than similar laws in other California cities.

“This is the first city that would have such a broad exemption. In breadth and scope, (these exemptions) are unprecedented in California,” said Laura Hulzar, an attorney with the National Employment Law Center, a New York-based nonprofit law firm that advocates on behalf of workers.

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