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Small-Business Coalition Launches Campaign To Put San Diego Wage Hike On Ballot

A San Diego Small Business Coalition member announces an initiative to put a City Council-approved minimum wage increase before voters, Aug. 21, 2014.

A group of San Diego business owners announced an initiative Thursday to officially put a San Diego City Council-approved minimum wage increase before voters.

Members of the San Diego Small Business Coalition said the decision belongs to voters, not the City Council.

Ann Kinner, owner of Seabreeze Nautical Books in Point Loma, said her business can’t absorb the plan to increase the hourly minimum wage to $11.50 over three years.

“I don’t know what I can do other than cutting back hours,” she said at a news conference in Sorrento Valley.

Todd Gloria's Signature-Gatherer Exchange

Signature-gatherers already were in action Thursday afternoon. A video shared on Instagram by City Council President Todd Gloria, who introduced the ordinance to increase the minimum wage, shows a man making a false claim while asking Gloria to sign a petition in support of the referendum.

"Have you signed the petition so the state can't force the city of San Diego to increase the minimum wage yet?" the signature-gather asks.

"I support raising the minimum wage," Gloria said in response.

Gloria has said the increase is important because more than a third of San Diegans can’t make ends meet.

In response to the video, a spokesman for the San Diego Small Business Coalition said the statement was likely an accident.

"It sounds to me like this individual merely just got the script backwards or at least confused," Jason Roe said. "We will not tolerate anyone misrepresenting this."

He could not provide training materials given to signature gatherers. Roe said the organization has dozens of people circulating the petition and they just completed training the day prior.

"And we will just continue to train our folks but they’ve only been doing this for less than 24 hours and given the complexity of the issue, I don’t think anyone’s terribly surprised that somebody might not have gotten the script perfectly right," he said.

Special Feature Two Stories Of Impact From San Diego’s Minimum Wage Increase

This story illustrates the lives of two people who will be impacted by the increase in very different ways.

Kinner, who has one employee, said she’s struggling already with the state-mandated increase from $8 to $9 an hour that went into effect in July. The city ordinance would further raise the minimum wage to $9.75 in January, to $10.50 in 2016 and to $11.50 in 2017. It would then be tied to inflation beginning in 2019. The measure would also provide employees with five earned sick days.

Kinner said she’s confident the referendum will succeed.

“I’ve talked to my neighbors, my customers — I’ve had people call me I don’t even know asking when they can come and sign (the petition),” she said.

Referendum supporters have to collect at least 33,866 signatures to put the ordinance on a future ballot, either in 2016 or during a special election if City Council calls for it. If they’re successful, the wage increases wouldn’t go into effect until after San Diegans cast their vote, if at all.

Kinner said she plans on asking her customers to sign the petition.

"My first question is going to be 'Are you a resident of the city of San Diego?' If they say yes, then I will say 'We are hoping you will help us fight this city-imposed increase in minimum wage. We don't believe it's appropriate, we don't believe either that the City Council should be mandating something that 60 percent of the population said they want to see it on a vote,'" she said.

Mel Katz with Raise Up San Diego, which supports upping the wage increase, urged San Diegans recently to not support the referendum.

"Our whole thing is don't sign it — meaning don't sign the petition because there's no reason to wait 19 months to enact this," he said.

Katz said polls conducted by the organization show two-thirds of San Diegans support the increase.

"Why have people suffer in San Diego any longer?" he said.

At the Thursday morning news conference, Kinner was joined by five business leaders from the health services industry, including Laurie Edwards-Tate.

Edwards-Tate is owner and president of At Your Home Familycare, which provides in-home care to senior citizens and physically or developmentally disabled people. The news conference was held at her company’s offices.

Edwards-Tate said the minimum wage increase would be harmful particularly to her customers because many are on a fixed income.

"People will need to pay for food before they can pay for care, which places them at serious risk for institutionalization,” she said.

The City Council approved the minimum wage ordinance in July, but the measure was vetoed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer earlier this month. The nine-member council voted 6 to 3 to override the veto in a special session Monday.

In a statement on Thursday, Faulconer's office said he supports the referendum.

"This is a major issue that will have far-reaching effects on our local economy, and the mayor thinks San Diego voters should have a chance to decide," the statement said.

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