San Diego Minimum Wage Increase To Go On June 2016 Ballot
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on mid-eighties, San Diego voters will now be the ones to decide if the city should mandate a higher minimum wage. A successful signature gathering drive forced the city council to either repeal the increase or put it on the ballot. On Monday, the Council voted unanimously to put the measure before voters. The incremental wage hike will not go into effect as planned next January, but if the measure passes, it would boost the minimum wage to $11.50 by January 2017. Joining me to talk about what is next in the battle over minimum wage are my guests, Rob Nothoff and Jason Roe. Let us start off with a little background on the signature gathering campaign that challenged the Council vote on the minimum wage. Who sponsored the campaign, and why court JASON ROE: The coalition that I represent, the small business coalition, is a broad coalition of small businesses from San Diego and the region your we really are struggling just to navigate the new state 25% minimum wage increase, which is a significant increase that was due, and I think most of our members believe it was too. But then taking a city, commencing a 44% increase when we're still navigating 25% is too much for small businesses to absorb one thing that is important, the other side keep saying this is big corporations. We have no support from the corporations. They have done cost-benefit analysis, and they think their beneficiaries of this, they can absorb the costs, and they think there is a possibility they can put competitors out of his this, and there may be more disposable income in the economy that may be spent in their stores. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the Chamber of Commerce is also involved in this signature gathering campaign, Which needed 34,000 validated signatures. Is that right? JASON ROE: That is correct. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much did that cost the campaign? JASON ROE: We have not done the final accounting yet, but it was several hundred thousand dollars. We did not anticipate it would be that expensive, but the other side spend what we estimate to be about half of million dollars to harass, obstruct, and intimidate voters, prevent them from signing the petition period that required us to put more people in the field, and more incentives for folks, to put up with the harassment and collect signatures in the city. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Was your final total around the same, about $500,000? JASON ROE: We have not done a final tally, it would've been somewhere below that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Was the aim of the drive to get the minimum wage repealed? JASON ROE: I think ultimately our hope would be that we can repeal it, but our public position on this is that voters should decide. When Todd Gloria introduced this at the beginning of the year, he was quite in static that the voters should decide this. His exact words were that they must get a vote on this period at some point he retreated from that position, and in fact, actually got at the head of the band in trying to prevent voters from signing the referendum. So, and game, we want it on the ballot. We think if we do a real campaign and do civic education on what the impact of the minimum wage is on consumers, the local economy, the unemployed and those that are employed, voters will see it as a ad policy for San Diego. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There is also a counter campaign in support of the minimum wage hike urging citizens not to sign the petition. It was mounted by the group raise up San Diego. We had a characterization of what the campaign did, what do you say that the campaign did to try to get people to not sign the petition? ROB NODHOFF: We wanted to go out and inform San Diegans about the tangible benefits of increasing the wage. Last week San Diego was designated as the fourth most expensive city in the country to live in. This boils down to, and 63% said he could agree that nobody should be forced to work full time in poverty. We are trying to educate the public. If you are signing the petition, you're taking away the ability of 200,000 hard-working people working full-time, trying to play by the rules, and trying to work with the ethos that an honest days work will help them have an opportunity at success, and they were taking that away. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me get the stories in a minute. Where did the 63% of city against supporting this, where does that figure come from? ROB NODHOFF: We wanted to pull this as well. Council President Todd Gloria unveiled an eight month project where he allowed community stakeholders, small and large businesses, regular residents, low-wage workers and everybody else to put input on this. We boil it down to the policy that you saw earlier, $11.50 indexed to inflation by January first of 2019. We polled that number through an independent poll and found that 63% of San Diegans support the measure as it currently stands, with five days of sick leave, and the phased-in minimum wage. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us more about Raise Up San Diego. Who sponsored the campaign? How much did you guys spend in your counter campaign? ROB NODHOFF: The center on policy initiatives, the organization I work with, is the chief financer behind this. We do a lot of community organizing and working with organizations like environmental groups, small business and veterans groups who support this in addition to several thousand working San Diegans to help contribute to this. Our overall total is around half million dollars, and we do not have an issue of sharing who our funders were. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why do we have to wait until 2016 to vote on this? JASON ROE: The way that the city charter reads, the Council had three options once we turned in the requisite number of signatures, which we did by a longshot they can rescind the policy, call a special election, or otherwise go to the next regularly scheduled election, which as we sit here now is the June 2016 primary. One thing that has not been discussed yet, which is the schedule for the 2016 presidential election. The Republican national committee has created a new schedule to create regional primary spirit California is obviously scheduled for June, but there is a possibility that the Republican and Democratic parties could choose to schedule residential primaries earlier than June 7 of 2016, so we could see a February, March, or April election that this could be thrown on. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Minimum wage may be on the ballot as well. Will be minimum-wage ballot measure be different in any way from the ordinance passed by the city council? ROB NODHOFF: It won't, Maureen. In fact, it will be the same policy, it will be phased-in at the same exact time. When voters have a chance to vote in 2016 and approve this, which we are confident they will, because San Diegans all believe we should reward hard work and anyone working in full-time should not be forced to live in poverty. When they vote on this in 2016, it is to our knowledge that the minimum wage would jump to $10.50 immediately. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: By the time we vote on this measure, the statement wage is already going to be up to $10 an hour. Jason, do you expect that to influence boaters in the city minimum wage increase? JASON ROE: I think that is part of what we hope to a compass in the civic debate in a campaign. I don't think that most Californians or San Diegans understand that the state just increased the minimum wage a couple of months ago. I've had a lot of confusion when we were collecting signatures, people not knowing the difference what happened at the state in July and what happened the city in July. Part of it is forming people. It was time for a minimum wage increase period the state stepped in to do that. We think the city only increase is bad for San Diego, the unemployed, and our small businesses. It's bad for a lot of low-wage workers that are currently struggling to get by. When they understand that, they're going to support our position. The city only increase is bad economics. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How do you think a higher minimum wage will influence the argument and debate over a higher, 50 set higher minimum wage in the city? ROB NODHOFF: I think that San Diegans understand that we now live in the fourth most expensive city in the country. I appreciate Jason highlighting potential concerns of what minimum which we do at the local level, but we want to move beyond theory and talk about actual facts of what is happening in other cities were they have increased the minimum age. We know that San Diegans will approve this, come June 2016. The city of San Jose increased their minimum wage. There were business interests that stated the same scared tactics as Mr. Roe. They said unemployment would spike. Everything they said was absolutely false. Unemployment decreased by 2% in San Jose. They added 9000 new businesses one year after. They added 4000 jobs, in the leisure and hospitality industry, which is primarily low-wage jobs. And they added hundred million dollars annually into the local economy. Why wouldn't we want that for San Diego Court in fact, we have small businesses in the coalition that are shocked that someone would go out and front as a small business coalition and try to remove $260 million from the economy every single year period these are small businesses who understand in order for them to succeed, they need money circuit lighting in the economy and for people to shop in their stores. When you give a low wage earner an increase in pay, they spend that locally, immediately, and it boosts the economy. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jason, what do you think are some of the effects that the minimum wage increase that was supposed to go into effect in the city of San Diego in January, now we know it will not go into effect until the early months of 2016. What do you think the effects on business will be of not having the increase? What should we expect to see? More people being hired? The creation of more small business? JASON ROE: I think it is absorbing the increase in labor costs that they just received a couple of months ago. This is not magic money. It has to come from somewhere period you are more likely than not going to see reductions in hours, benefits, loss of jobs, and increases in prices period Rob is talking about the disposable income that would be pumped into the economy, but that does not account for the higher prices that these businesses are going to have to apply to the goods and services you have to purchase. I think that is an exaggeration of the purchasing power that will be put into the market place. Going back to San Jose, I do not think there could be more of an apples and oranges comparison. Look at the United States economy the fastest growing high-paying jobs in the country are in high-tech. Where is the base of high-tech growth in United States? San Jose. The degree of growth in low-wage jobs have supported the growth in high wage jobs period if you have more people with money, you need more service providers. San Jose has a 6.2% job growth rate. San Diego has a 2% job growth rate. The cost of living is significantly higher in San Jose. The median home price is hundred thousand dollars more than here. When San Jose implement their increase, it was a 27% increase. It was not a 44% increase. I think every locality, every marketplace is a little different. At the state level, it is fair to increase, because everyone has to play by the same rules. We are not going to risk losing businesses and jobs to competing cities. But when you do it in just one city, you are incentivizing businesses to go to lower-cost environments. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jason said it will give businesses time to absorb the increase in the state minimum wage period what are the consequences for workers in delaying this increase until we vote in 2016, if indeed it is approved to that time? ROB NODHOFF: The main focus of Raise Up San Diego was to make sure we could and if it these hard-working folks as soon as possible. We have tangible stories that spotlight and showcase the plight of 200,000 neighbors. One that I would like to highlight is the story of Marcus Nichols. He is a security officer who works another job, he works over 40 hours a week combined at these two jobs, and yet he is forced to live in his car. Because he is not able to make basic ends meet. If we want to count ourselves as America's finest city, and we have people working over full-time, over 40 hours a week, living in their cars, what are we doing? What are we saying? We have the story of Jesse Thomas, a 28-year-old waitress. She has an incredible story. The fact she testified at a city council hearing and was offered a job from somebody who said you are working at the wrong job, she responded if I got this better job, somebody else still has to work my job and will still be living in poverty. We are not addressing the core issue of actually addressing the issue of inequality. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A lot of critics are saying the Chamber of Commerce, by becoming more political, is undermining San Diego's elected officials. It is challenging the affordable housing fee, it was involved in overturning the Logan community plan, and now the minimum wage with the petition drive. Is business trying to run the city? JASON ROE: Quite contrary. I would say that San Diego's elected officials have undermined San Diego's elected officials. They have been carrying the agenda of organized labor at the expense of taxpayers. This is the third time in two years that citizen led initiatives have had to overturn union backed initiatives imposed on us by a union backed city council. The reality is that we have a failure of leadership and governance. It is difficult to govern, but it is easy to spend other people's money period the problem here, and Robert brings up a lot of sympathetic stories. If he tells enough of these that touch our heart, maybe we will check our brain at the door. But there is a reality. We have to figure out how to give the working poor better skills so they can move out of minimum wage jobs into real jobs that pay better and provide better. But we're really going to do is to increase the number of folks that are unemployed, and we have 45,000 of those people here today. We have to get together and do the hard lifting of governments to help people get the skill set to move into better jobs and not be dependent on minimum wage jobs. For us to be told that there is an expectation, the minimum wage job is supposed to support a family, that is not the intent of minimum wage. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I will give you the final word, Rob. ROB NODHOFF: And I will push back again. Mr. Roe went right back into the same exact talking points that were dismissed in San Jose and everywhere else. San Jose increased and the unemployment spike, we know with actual facts and not the theory that Mr. Roe was talking about, we found that unemployment will actually decrease. Last I checked, Bill Walton, Mel Katz the former head of the Chamber of Commerce, and Irwin Jacobs the founder of QUALCOMM were anything but union. Again, I really take a look at this as about 200,000 people trying to make ends meet. For Mr. Roe to sit here and say people need to develop a skill set when we have 10,000 veterans who served their country, including officer Wesley, he came back after serving his country in combat twice, and came back and can only work at a $10 an hour minimum wage job, then we have a problem we are really trying to address. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we will be hearing this debate until 2016. Thank you both.
San Diego voters will now get to weigh in on whether to increase the city's minimum wage. The City Council voted unanimously Monday to put the increase on the June 2016 ballot.
The City Council originally passed the minimum wage increase without going to a public vote. But opponents gathered enough signatures to force the council to decide whether to repeal the increase or put it on the ballot.
The council voted Monday to put it on the ballot in June 2016, the next scheduled election in San Diego.
That means minimum wage workers won't get a raise to $9.75 an hour or five earned sick days this January, as they would have under the original measure. If voters approve the increase in 2016, workers will then see their wages rise to $11.50 an hour.
The minimum wage is scheduled to rise next January from $9 to $10 an hour under state law.
Jerry Sanders, the former mayor and current CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the council meeting against putting the increase to a vote. He said the council should instead rescind the increase entirely because it would be bad for business owners.
"Many small business owners would have joined me here today, but decided not to," he said. "Some have come forward in the past but have suffered through their businesses being picketed and their livelihoods being threatened because they stood up and expressed concern. It's time for the City Council to fight for the city's job creators, or at minimum, listen to them."
Council President Todd Gloria said he supported putting the increase to a vote, even though it meant workers wouldn't get raises right away.
"They will not have additional help to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table for themselves and for their children," Gloria said.
Then he railed against Sanders and the business owners who led the referendum against the increase, because their argument when gathering signatures was that the public should get a right to vote.
"It is surprising that the very same people who led the (referendum) effort and advocated for placing this on the ballot are now asking this council to rescind and to not let the voters decide," Gloria said. "That is very disappointing."
When Gloria first raised the issue back in January, he offered an option to place a minimum wage increase measure before voters in the election that's coming up in a little over two weeks. However, the council majority voted to approve the increase themselves, and now it's too late to get on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The minimum wage increase will be on the same ballot as the next presidential primary.