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Business Groups Join Forces To Fight Statewide Minimum Wage Hike Initiatives

Photo by Katie Schoolov

A group gathers outside the McDonald's on Tierrasanta Boulevard in San Diego to ask for a $15 minimum wage, June 5, 2015.

As two initiatives to raise California's minimum wage inch closer to the November ballot, business groups have formed a coalition to fight them.

A brand new campaign committee called California Consumers Against Higher Prices is a coalition of a few dozen groups, including the the California Restaurant Association, the California Hotel and Lodging Association, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the Chambers of Commerce in Los Angeles, Fresno and San Diego.

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California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

“These measures are flawed initiatives that have too many unintended consequences,” said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

One initiative to raise the minimum wage, backed by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, calls for an increase of $1 each year until it reaches $15 in 2021. The other would raise the wage to $15 by 2020 and require employers to allow workers to take six paid sick days a year. The SEIU-UHW-backed measure appears to have the most momentum and expects to qualify for the ballot in less than two weeks.

Condie said while the political climate in some California cities appears to support minimum wage hikes, his group's market research suggest voters across the state feel differently. He points out that San Francisco is the only city where voters actually approved a $15 minimum wage. In other cities, including Los Angeles, the city council enacted laws to raise the wage.

"The world view of San Franciscans is much different than the voters of California," Condie told KPCC. "Even in Los Angeles, when we survey the voters, they believe that $15 is too much, too fast."

So expect to see a lot of political ads in opposition to the measures.

"The campaign will be fully-funded," Condie said. "Mail, social media, radio, T.V. We will do everything that is required to have a winning result."

This hardly deters supporters of the measures. Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW said his group continues to reach out to organizations, churches and a growing roster of elected officials who support raising the wage.

"People are indicating they want to volunteer, they want to make phone calls and help with the campaign," Regan told KPCC.

He said the momentum will pick up substantially on March 22 when he expects the state to certify the signatures his campaign has turned in and qualify the measure for the November ballot. That will also make a difference in financial contributions to the campaign.

"The big ticket donors, organizational donors, want to know that this is going to be on the ballot and that their support goes directly to getting this passed."

Copyright 2016 KPCC Southern California Public Radio. To see more election coverage, visit www.scpr.org.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

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