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San Diego City Council Members To Propose Ballot Initiative On Minimum Wage, Sick Days

Evening Edition

Aired 3/13/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST:

Alan Gin, Associate Professor of Economics, University of San Diego

Four members of the City Council announced Wednesday they will try to place a measure on the November ballot that would increase the minimum wage in San Diego and allow employees to have five sick days.

Speaking to a rally attended by about 100 people, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said no one should have to just scrape by if they work hard, or have to choose between putting food on the table or caring for an ill loved-one.

"Making the changes that we are recommending will boost our local economy and it will improve the quality of life for people,'' Cole said.

She was joined by City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilwomen Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner.

In a memo to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other council members, they said their goal was to place a measure before voters that:

• provides a "meaningful'' but unspecified increase in the minimum wage for all people working in San Diego;

• ties the pay rate to a cost-of-living index that would be updated annually;

• allows a phase-in period that gives more time for small businesses and nonprofits to raise pay; and

• gives five days of earned sick leave for all employees, regardless of industry or business type.

The proposal will be presented in two weeks to the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which would begin hammering out details.

According to Emerald, the sick days provision will create a healthier workforce, since employees would stay home without fear of losing pay or being fired.

That way, they won't infect fellow workers or the public, she said.

The minimum wage in California is $8 per hour. Even though the state plans an increase to $9 an hour in July and $10 an hour in two years, Gloria in recent months has been pushing to bump up compensation for the lowest-paid workers even faster in San Diego.

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University of San Diego economist Alan Gin told the audience that the minimum wage had its greatest buying power in 1968, when it was just $1.65 per hour. If adjusted for inflation, it would be $13.87 today, he said.

He also said studies that show minimum wage increases lead to job losses are "ambiguous.'' The pay hikes also lead to more productive workers and less employee turnover, Gin said.

In a statement, Former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who now heads the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he did not support raising the city's minimum wage more than the state's recent increase:

"Any proposal by the City Council to add an additional increase on top of the recently approved $10/hour increase by the state will put San Diego at a further competitive disadvantage. The City Council's proposal should be reviewed by an independent third party to understand the economic impact an additional increase will have on our local economy and businesses.”

Last week, the Center on Policy Initiatives released a study that said a typical family of four needs to make nearly $85,000 annually to live in San Diego without government assistance -- which equates to each adult making more than $20 per hour.

The CPI also said 300,000 households in the region have incomes too low to meet basic expenses.

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