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San Diegans Working For Minimum Wage Will Get Raise In July

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Photo by Associated Press

A Carl's Jr. employee serves a customer through a drive-thru window in San Diego on Sept. 13, 2013.

San Diego voters overwhelming approved raising the $10-an-hour minimum wage. The registrar of voters now has 30 days to certify Tuesday's election results, and then the wage bump will take effect.

San Diego's minimum wage workers will see their pay rise from $10 to $10.50 an hour as soon as Tuesday's votes are certified, which will happen in July.

Almost 63 percent of voters said yes to Proposition I to raise the minimum wage and guarantee five sick days for workers. The City Council originally passed the increase two years ago, but it was blocked by a referendum.

Registrar of Voters Michael Vu has 30 days to certify Tuesday's election results, and said he expects to use all of that time. That means he should be done by July 7.

Then the wage bump will immediately take effect, said San Diego Councilman Todd Gloria, who led the effort to raise the minimum wage.

"The message to workers is help is on the way," he said. "For folks who are struggling and their wages have been stagnant for so long, it’s a great relief."

Gloria said he will resume discussion of how to enforce the wage increase at the June 22 meeting of his City Council Budget and Government Efficiency Committee. The committee had begun the discussion in 2014, but the effort stalled when the referendum forced the item onto the ballot.

The council could decide on a complaint-driven enforcement model, which relies on workers making reports if their pay isn't raised, or a proactive model.

Either way, if employers are found to be not paying enough, they'll need to pay what's owed, Gloria said. If the complaint model is used, the city could then also double or triple back pay as a penalty.

"The vast majority of employers want to do the right thing. That’s why they’re calling my office now," Gloria said. "For those who want to cheat their employees, they have to understand there will be consequences."

He said the city will also likely do an education and outreach program by working with community groups to let employees and employers know about the wage hike.

Gloria said he recently spoke with a factory worker who didn't know her pay would rise, and that she was emotional when he told her.

"A whole lot of folks are going to get some help pretty quickly," he said. "Secondarily, this sends a strong message after a series of referendums with dubious origins. We have won this one, and it's a cautionary tale for those who want to do this again."

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers decided this year to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 for businesses with 26 employees and more, and by 2023 for businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Under San Diego's measure, the minimum wage in the city will rise again to $11.50 an hour on Jan. 1, making them $1 higher than what's required by state law. But in 2019, the state minimum wage will rise to $12 an hour, superseding San Diego's wage bump.

The local measure would also guarantee five paid sick days, which is not included in the state measure.

A reader told The San Diego Union-Tribune that his employer slashed his vacation time to compensate for the new law requiring sick days.

Gloria said he's heard anecdotes about things like this happening, but said the "vast majority" of the people affected by Proposition I likely weren't getting vacation time or sick days before the measure passed.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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