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Minimum wage in San Diego increases to $16.30 an hour

Minimum wage San Diegans will begin seeing more money in their paychecks effective Saturday, as the city's minimum wage increased from $15 to $16.30 an hour.

The change applies to all employees who perform at least two hours of work in one or more calendar weeks of the year within the geographic boundaries of the city of San Diego. The change is in accordance with the city's Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance, approved in 2016.

"With the cost of living rising, this increase could not come at a more needed time for workers and working families," Mayor Todd Gloria said. "This increase means a better ability to make ends meet, put food on the table and spend in our local businesses."

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But Dan Eaton, a constitutional law expert, said it’s still not a living wage in San Diego.

“It’s pretty clear when you do the math, it’s going to fall short of that, but it’s still moving it closer to that ideal and that’s worth something.”

The minimum wage has increased every year since $10.50 an hour in 2016 when it was $10.50 and subsequently a dollar a year since 2019 — tied to the previous year's cost of living increase.

Alan Gin is an economics professor at the University of San Diego. He said the newest wage increase takes into account a few factors like inflation and the consumer price index.

“When prices rise the minimum wage is going to rise to help compensate workers for the increased living costs and that’s what’s happening in 2023. Inflation was particularly high here in San Diego, so the minimum wage is going to go up about 8%,” Gin said.   

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The Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance applies to all industries and businesses without exception for number of employees. Tips and gratuities do not count toward payment of minimum wage.

Employers are required to post updated minimum wage notices in a conspicuous place at any workplace or job site in the city. The notices are available on the city's Minimum Wage Program webpage.

Experts have mixed feelings about increasing the minimum wage. Some say the higher cost of labor may lead to fewer workers getting jobs.

“There are some suggestion(s) that we’re moving into an economic downturn. If that happens, obviously the cost of labor is a very big part of the expense of running a business, and some workers — because of the higher minimum wage — will simply not get jobs who otherwise would get jobs if the minimum wage had remained lower,” Eaton noted.  

But Gin is on the side that thinks this is positive for the economy.

“It just gives more money then to workers, and then the workers can take that money and go out and spend it, and that will give a boost to businesses who have to pay this higher minimum wage,” Gin said.

According to the ordinance, employees will continue to earn sick leave, either by the accrual or the "front load" method, in which employers can provide a lump sum of at least 24 hours or three days of sick leave up front at the beginning of each 12-month period.

Also, due to the local ordinance, minimum wage will continue to adjust for inflation in the city of San Diego.

“The way the legislation is structured, the minimum wage will increase every year by the amount of inflation," Gin continued. "So, this could go on indefinitely.”     

Employees may use earned sick leave for all of the reasons described in the ordinance, which include, but are not limited to, time for their own medical care or for the medical care of a family member. Employers may limit an employee's use of earned sick leave to 40 hours within a benefit year.

Anyone who believes an employer is violating the ordinance is encouraged to file a complaint, in writing, with the city's Minimum Wage Program. To contact the program, call 619-615-1565

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