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Effort Begins To Reverse San Diego City Council Override Of Minimum Wage Veto

City Council President Todd Gloria talks about the minimum wage ordinance passed by the San Diego City Council on July 14, 2014.
Nicholas McVicker
City Council President Todd Gloria talks about the minimum wage ordinance passed by the San Diego City Council on July 14, 2014.
Effort Begins To Reverse San Diego City Council Override Of Minimum Wage Veto
Effort Begins To Reverse San Diego City Council Override Of Minimum Wage Veto
Effort Begins To Reverse San Diego City Council Override Of Minimum Wage Veto GUESTSJason Roe, San Diego Small Business CoalitionMel Katz, Raise Up San Diego

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, the San Diego City Council has voted to override Mayor Faulconer's veto of the minimum wage hike. But instead of clearing the way for the incremental increase in minimum wage to $11.50, in effort to defeat the measure has begun. Signature gatherers will be sent out this week by opponents of the wage hike. They're hoping to enforce a citywide vote on the minimum wage, they're hoping voters will repeal the hike. Meanwhile, a campaign to support the wage hike is underway. I would like to welcome my guests, Jason Roe and Mel Katz. Welcome to the show. Jason, how is your partition going to read? JASON ROE: Basically it will be a referendum on the ordinance that the override would implement, that is expected to take effect on January 1, 2015. Basically, this will ask voters if they want to put this on the ballot, so it is most likely that it would end up on the June 2016 ballot. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Will signature gatherers be giving additional information to people who asked to sign the petition? JASON ROE: We will give a brief kind of overview what the implications are. For us, one of the overriding message is that when that do not oppose a minimum wage increase. But a minimum wage increase was implemented by the state at a 25% increase. This new increase would be a 44% increase with automatic increases every year indexed to the CPI, the consumer price index. Right now, we have businesses just trying to figure out how they're going to absorb the 25% increase, and when we turn around it will be 44%, we think that is disproportionate. We also don't think it should be city only, we think it should be statewide because all businesses are affected equally. Here we are disenfranchising San Diego from the other seventeen cities in the unincorporated areas of our county. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How many signatures do you need? JASON ROE: We need 34,000 signatures in thirty days. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much will the effort costs? JASON ROE: If it weren't for the voter harassment campaign that was announced last week, it might cost a couple hundred thousand dollars, but since we know that there are people obstructing our efforts to get this on the ballot, that will drive up the cost, so I think you could come up to his as high as a half-million dollars. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who will come up with it on your side? JASON ROE: There are businesses throughout the city that have stepped up, it will be expensive and it won't be easy for the businesses to do this, but when they are facing the need to close doors, reduce hours, lay off employees, the cost of this taking effect are greater than funding the referendum. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The regional Chamber of Commerce, are they going to chickens money as well? JASON ROE: Yes, they have been very involved. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Your group, Raise Up San Diego, is not going to collect signatures. How do you plan to counteract the signature gathering campaign? MEL KATZ: Our campaign, which is not a harassment campaign, is strictly an education campaign. We want to let voters know how important this minimum wage increases, and how important earning sick days is. And the fact that our city council, our representatives really showed leadership, and passed majority sixty-three. Because of what they passed, hard-working San Diegans are going to be able to get by better in San Diego, and we feel there is no reason to wait on that. We would be waiting almost 19 months if they are successful in gathering signatures. What passed by the city council is not a 44% hike in salary, it's a very moderate gradual hike in salary. The minimum wage right now is nine dollars, it would go to $9.75 in January, $10.50 when the state is at ten dollars, and finally in 2017, it would go to $11.50 an hour. No mathematics put together can come to a 44% increase. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me talk about this decline to sign campaign. In published reports, Jason has said that he expects petition signers to be intimidated by union thugs yelling at them. Will we be seeing that? How will this campaign be conducted? MEL KATZ: It will be conducted by having people out at grocery stores, giving information, giving brochures, showing what the minimum wage and sick pay that just ask the city council with a super majority will do. And it will really tell that there are people in San Diego that are really hurting. 30% of the people in San Diego are not making it. We're going to be talking about how this could give immediate relief, why wait nineteen months to go through this campaign and then wait to get it on the ballot? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who is funding Raise Up San Diego? MEL KATZ: A diverse group of individuals, positions, community leaders, businesses, and workers. It's really a diverse group. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The cofounder is Irwin Jacobs, right? MEL KATZ: No, not at all. I'm not leaving this organization, I'm a business person in San Diego, I have been a business person in San Diego for thirty-seven years, and I feel we need to be doing something to help people in San Diego. Put a roof over their head, put food on the table, be able to afford to get to work using transportation. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jason, during the last referendum drive over the Barrio Logan community plan, a judge found that signature gatherers for that referendum were giving misinformation to voters. How will you make sure that does not happen again? JASON ROE: First of all, I was not involved in that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The chamber was, though. JASON ROE: Yes, but the chamber is one of many funders. They don't lead or control this. It's a diverse group of small businesses. At the end of the day, it's about them. It's incumbent on us circulating this to make sure that the people who are distributing it are truthful, well-trained, and understand the issue. It's a complex issue for people who don't pay attention to these issues. It's important that we train them and make sure they are educated and informed on the issue. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does the outcome of the Barrio Logan vote, has that influenced the decision to launch result San Diego, the fact that the Barrio Logan community plan which was voted on and approved by the San Diego City Council was taking to a vote of the people, and defeated. Does that have any influence on starting this organization and making sure that people are there to counter the information that the petition gatherers have? MEL KATZ: I don't think so. Todd Gloria who has led this entire fight, when he was interim Mayor in his State of the city address in January, he proposed increasing the minimum wage and putting in sick days. When he proposed that, this organization has started to work since January and how to educate the public on why this is so important. It really is important, because there are so many hard-working San Diegans out there that are not making ends meet. This will put a roof over their heads, food on the table, and help them with gas and public transportation and getting to work. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The city council made a compromise lowering the original proposal of thirteen dollars an hour to this $11.50 over the three-year period of time. That compromise was made to address the concerns of small business. Why didn't it address those concerns? JASON ROE: Because I don't think at the end of the day that was the net result of that. Mel mentioned Gloria's leadership on this increase, and Todd Gloria also said this was very important that we put this in the ballot for San Diego voters to decide, and apparently he has changed his mind since then. Since he is part of the effort to block this from getting on the ballot on November 16. I believe personally, and I don't have any specific evidence of this, that they rolled it back because they understood with a 25% increase it was just implemented in July, that the bullet appetite for an increase that dramatic would never sell, so I think they made a calculated political decision that we don't have the public support for the $13.50 increase, particularly when it was at a dollars, you're talking about a five and half-dollar increase from where we were in June. I think they understood of this went to the ballot and the electorate was informed about the implications of this, that they would projected. We are all sympathetic to people who are struggling to get by, I've worked for minimum-wage and less than minimum wage, I've worked at manpower, my mom has had to work at manpower when I was growing up to make ends meet. We are sympathetic to that, but this has other impacts. We will reduce the number of jobs available to the people who are struggling to get by, there is an inflationary impact of this to drive up the cost of the things these families need to rely on, so if we give them a few more dollars an hour now, they are also going to see a few more dollars in various costs, whether it is groceries or other services they rely on. It's an artificial popping up of their quality of life. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Go ahead now. MEL KATZ: Let's look at certain areas this is already happened in. San Jose over a year ago February 2013 passed a minimum wage to $10.15 an hour. In that time, unemployment has decreased by 1.8%, 9000 new businesses have started, in leisure and hospitality alone there up and 4000 new jobs, and the hours worked have barely changed. They went from 36.5 before the minimum wage past to 36.9%. Studies have shown that this puts pennies on the dollars as far as raising costs, but it really helps the people who need the most. It will help the people in San Diego with this earned sick days and upping the minimum wage, so they can get by for food, transportation, and housing. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to clarify a few things with both of you. First, Jason, that $11.50 figure is very close the amount that came out in a policy paper cosponsored by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, on what it takes to have a no-frills lifestyle in San Diego. That is probably where that figure came from, rather than a political move on Todd Gloria's part. JASON ROE: I think the decision came from political motivation, not the figure. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I have information that QUALCOMM cofounder Irwin Jacobs is leading the campaign with you. Is that incorrect information? MEL KATZ: That's not correct. Irwin Jacobs and I did an op-ed together that ran in the Union Tribune. We're both big supporters of it, as our Bill Walton, Barbara Bree, Bob Kelly from the San Diego Foundation, many other people in San Diego, business people in San Diego really feel we need to do something for the hard-working San Diegans and help them get by. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jason, you have been hearing what of Mel is saying about what he thinks and what people who support this plan think it means for San Diego. Why do you think that San Diego voters would defeat this minimum-wage hike, if they were asked to vote on it? JASON ROE: There are a couple reasons. There was a 10News poll that came out last week that showed 60% of San Diegans believes this should have been done by initiative rather than by ordinance. You can start from that. Secondly, most people think when they hear about this, this sounds very fair. Because they don't think it affects them. But when they find out it will drive up the cost of everything that they do, when they take into consideration that it will reduce the number of jobs available to people struggling to get by in San Diego by pushing them either outside of the city, if you can move just outside of the city and reduce labor costs and you're not wedded to a position, why not move and reduce costs? Were making ourselves less competitive. The net effect that is fewer businesses, fewer jobs, less tax revenue, and that affects the revenue that the city takes into provide basic services. It could be police, fire, filling potholes. The macroeconomic impact of this actually hurts not just a very workers that the proponents suggest they are trying to help, but every San Diego resident and taxpayers going to see a reduction in service and an increase in the cost of living here in San Diego. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And to Mel, many business owners has we heard from Jason say that they are getting used to this state minimum wage increase of nine dollars an hour. Why not start with the state plan to eventually raise the minimum wage to ten dollars, instead of having the city have its own minimum-wage hike? MEL KATZ: I think it's the same reason that you see large cities throughout California looking at this right now. San Francisco has fifteen dollars, LA is looking at fifteen dollars, Oakland is $12.35. Cities now that the nine dollars and the ten dollars an hour are not enough, and it was not enough for the state. Jason mentioned before that the channel 10 poll and two thirds of the people, we have done our polling also, it should the same thing, it show that two thirds of the people in San Diego are in favor of the minimum wage hike. This is a poll that was done 31 July. If two thirds are we in favor of it, why not give relief right now to the San Diegans that would need it? And it passed the city council, our elected representatives, six of nine of them said yes, let's go ahead with it. The overrode the mayor's veto, six out of nine, we are ready to do it and we are ready to give people relief right now so they can put food on the table, roof over their heads, and help them with hesitation. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You'll probably hear more about this at a grocery store near you by the end of the week. Thank you both very much.

The San Diego City Council voted Monday to override Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s veto of the ordinance increasing the minimum wage.

The vote was 6-2, with Councilmen Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman voting no. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf did not vote during the special recess meeting because she was camping with her family at Lake Tahoe and did not have internet to access the livestream of the council meeting, her spokeswoman said. Kersey and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole were not at the meeting but voted over the phone.

The council needed six votes to override the veto. It originally passed the ordinance 6-3.

"This City Council is standing up and demonstrating that we value honest work and fair pay," said Council President Todd Gloria, who drafted the wage increase ordinance. "When 38 percent of this city who work do not earn enough to make ends meet, then something must be done."

Gloria added that he is disappointed Faulconer chose to veto the "reasonable and common sense measure."

With the override, the hourly minimum wage in the city is scheduled to rise from $9 to $9.75 on Jan. 1 and require employers to provide five earned sick days a year. Wages would increase again to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2016, and to $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. In 2019, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation.

After the meeting, a spokesman for the San Diego Small Business Coalition said the group is planning to collect signatures to force a referendum, which would require voters to approve the ordinance. Jason Roe said the group will send out signature gatherers starting mid-week.

"This is a very, very significant change in policy for the city, and there's a great deal of risk that it puts the city in," Roe said. "So we believe voters should have an opportunity to weigh in on this."

They will have 30 days to gather 33,866 signatures, according to the city clerk. That would place a referendum on the wage increase on a future ballot, either in the next citywide election in June 2016 or in a separate special election called by the City Council.

If the referendum is accepted by the city clerk, the minimum wage increase would be postponed until after a public vote.

Roe said while it would normally cost $100,000 to $200,000 to run a signature-gathering campaign, more will need to be spent to counteract an opposition campaign announced last week by Raise Up San Diego. Former San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mel Katz, who is leading the campaign with Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, said the group has so far raised $300,000 to urge voters not to sign the petitions to repeal the minimum wage increase.

"That will certainly create some challenges for us in getting the signatures, so we're going to have to do a few things to increase the number of people we have out there to get over the harassment hurdle," Roe said. "It's hard, if you're a voter walking into Target and someone asks you to sign a petition, and some union thug starts yelling at you and heckling you, well, you're not going to probably want to sign that petition.

"So we've got to figure out a way to interfere in their ability to harass voters. I don't know that we know a perfect solution to that," he said. "It's a free country and people can say what they want, but we're going to try to do what we can to keep the situation civil and not let voters be intimidated by this bullying tactic."

Robert Nothoff, a policy analyst for the Center on Policy Initiatives, said Raise Up San Diego does not believe in harassment and will be working to educate people before they sign petitions.

"We want to make sure a small minority of folks aren't able to come in and hijack the local democratic process, and to make sure that we're not taking away the ability of 200,000 hard-working San Diegans to make basic ends meet," he said.

Nothoff said he believes petition gatherers lied to voters when collecting signatures to overturn the council's decision on the Barrio Logan community plan update, and said this time his group will stand with petition gatherers to correct misstatements.

"We want to make sure folks understand what that means when they put their names on the line," he said.

Nothoff said "a little bit of funding" for Raise Up San Diego is coming from labor unions but "this is not a labor union thing."

He said the group will be funded by local foundations and nonprofits.

The San Diego Small Business Coalition is funded by small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as national trade associations "that have taken an interest in this battle," Roe said. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and its CEO, former Mayor Jerry Sanders, are also supporting efforts to gather signatures for a referendum.

Roe said he is amused by claims that the opposition is backed by U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester or big businesses such as Walmart, "because they not have done anything to help us whatsoever."

"People are acting as if this is a position of greed, where business owners don't want to share the wealth with people who are struggling to get by, and nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "We're all very sympathetic to some of the stories we’ve heard about people who are struggling to make ends meet."

But he said the ordinance's wage increase on top of the recent state increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour is too much for businesses to absorb.