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Committee Moves Minimum Wage Ballot Measure To San Diego City Council

San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria presents his ballot proposal to increase the city's minimum wage to the council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, June 11, 2014.

Aired 6/12/14 on KPBS News.

The proposal still needs final approval by a majority of the full City Council.

A plan to put a proposed incremental increase in San Diego's minimum wage before voters in November was forwarded Wednesday to the full City Council by the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

City Council President Todd Gloria is leading a drive to get the proposal, which would bring minimum wage to $13.09 per hour over a three year period starting in July 2015, on the ballot in this fall's general election. The proposal would also require that employers provide five earned sick days each year.

Special Feature Business Owners Weigh In On Proposal To Raise San Diego’s Minimum Wage

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His plan passed 4-1 at the committee level, with City Councilman Mark Kersey casting the lone no vote. It will now go before the full City Council, which could decide to implement the plan as a city ordinance or as a ballot measure.

Gloria said he is working with the City Attorney's Office on two sets of language to either put the measure on the November ballot or implement it as an ordinance, which means it would go into effect without public say. He added that the details of the proposal could change before City Council consideration or at future council hearings.

“My conversations with stakeholders have been constructive and will continue after this hearing," he said. "If talks generate modifications to this proposal, I will ask my Council colleagues to consider the best proposal possible.”

If the proposal becomes law, San Diego's minimum hourly wage would increase to $11.09 in July 2015, $12.09 in July 2016 and $13.09 in 2017. In future years, the standard would be indexed to inflation.

City Councilman Ed Harris and committee Chairwoman Sherri Lightner both said those numbers might have to be adjusted when the plan is taken up by the full City Council.

Concern was also expressed over the impact of the proposal on restaurant employees who depend on tips and on nonprofit organizations. Councilman David Alvarez suggested splitting the proposals into two ballot measures — one for the minimum wage increase and the other on sick days.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer opposes the plan, according to Almis Udrys, the mayor's director of government affairs.

"The mayor continues to be concerned with putting San Diego at a competitive disadvantage against any other cities around us, and we continue to look forward to an independent economic analysis of the proposal and its impact on the ability of San Diego to create, grow and retain jobs,'' Udrys said.

Richard Barrera, who heads the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said business concerns are overblown, based on a recent experience in San Jose. Advocates of the wage hike say employment and business creation have increased since the minimum pay rate was set at $10.15 an hour.

"If we enact this proposal, 285,000 San Diegans will now have access to earned sick days, 220,000 working San Diegans will see an increase in their pay, an increase that averages $3,000 a year that would put $660 million into our local economy, and we will see one out of every three working women see an increase,'' Barrera said.

A large turnout at the San Diego City Council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee hears discussion of a proposed minimum wage increase. June 11, 2014.

Many members of the public spoke for and against the plan at the committee meeting. Owners of businesses such as Cap's Pizza and a downtown Ace Hardware said an increased minimum wage would hurt their businesses, while fast food workers stood up to say they don't currently earn enough to make ends meet. Some senior citizens and owners of home healthcare businesses said they were against the plan because, they said, seniors won't be able to afford to pay caretakers if their wages are raised.

Chanelle Hawken, the director of public policy for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the committee many businesses have told her they do not support the increase, including home healthcare worker businesses, organizations that work with at-risk youth and the disabled, and small business owners.

"They create a sense of place in our city of villages, places that our residents can walk and bike to," she said. "Business owners that have already cut back in the last recession and can't raise their prices again. For many of these businesses, there's simply nowhere else to cut, and for those that can, they will cut employee hours and benefits."

Francine Maigue, the district director for state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, said increasing wages and the number of sick days especially helps single parents who can't take time off from work if their children are sick.

"Increased wages means less reliance on public programs and more money in the pockets of our workers," she said. "It's time that more San Diegans make a living wage and it's time that they're able to take a sick day without fear or guilt."

The city currently abides by the state minimum wage — $8 an hour — which is set to increase to $9 an hour next month and $10 an hour in 2016.

Gloria based his proposed San Diego minimum hourly wage of $13.09 on a study by the Center on Policy Initiatives, showing that's the least amount of money needed to live in San Diego on a bare-bones budget without government assistance.

Last week, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and San Diego Chamber of Commerce released a report that said a wage increase above that mandated by the state would hurt the city's competitiveness and force local businesses to cut back workers' hours or raise prices.

The two organizations also said the CPI study was flawed because many people making minimum wage don't actually live in low-income households and don't always rent one-bedroom apartments.

The CPI countered that the opposition report was "riddled with inconsistencies and assertions that are not backed by data.'' CPI Executive Director Clare Crawford said multiple studies show that minimum wage increases boost the economy.

None of several other proposed ballot measures that were presented to the committee passed. They included:

  • revising the City Charter to protect the public's right to review public records;
  • amending City Charter sections on how to set salaries for elected officials;
  • raising the hotel room tax by 5 percent to 15.5 percent;
  • transferring the authority for certain environmental reviews to the San Diego Association of Governments; and
  • amending charter sections on providing funding for Balboa Park.

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