The City Council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee cleared the way today for Council President Todd Gloria and the City Attorney’s Office to draft a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage in San Diego faster than planned state hikes.

Gloria wants to place before voters in November an initiative that would provide a “meaningful” increase in the minimum wage for all people working in San Diego; tie the pay rate to a cost-of-living index that would be updated annually; allow a phase-in period that gives more time for small businesses and nonprofits to raise pay; and give five days of earned sick leave for all employees, regardless of industry or business type.

“Nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty,” Gloria told the committee members.”And yet more than a quarter of full-time workers in San Diego find themselves in that very situation.”

Gloria has not specified an actual amount of pay that he prefers.

The minimum wage in California is $8 per hour. The state plans an increase to $9 an hour in July and $10 an hour in two years.

The Center on Policy Initiatives, which supports a wage increase, estimates that a single person living on a stripped-down budget needs to make a $13.09 hourly wage to live in San Diego. Around 300,000 households in the region have incomes too low to meet basic expenses, according to the CPI.

The committee voted 2-1 to have Gloria and the city attorney return April 30 with a more detailed ballot proposal.

Councilman Mark Kersey, who cast the dissenting vote, called for an impartial analysis of the economic impact of a faster rise in the minimum wage. He said he was concerned about the effect large hikes in labor costs would have on mom-and-pop businesses.

“I’m not exactly sure where that money will come from,” Kersey said.

Those types of businesses could flee San Diego for neighboring communities, he said.

A representative of Mayor Kevin Faulconer also called for an independent analysis of any proposal.

Gloria said he has spoken with business community leaders on ways that they can be helped, separately from the minimum wage issue.

CPI Executive Director Claire Crawford said minimum wage increases will actually help businesses by raising productivity and lowering employee turnover. As for requiring sick days, she said 82 percent of fast-food workers don’t get paid time off when they or a loved one falls ill.

A woman who said she used to work in the food-service industry said that since she had no paid sick leave, she showed up “more than once” while not feeling well, endangering her co-workers and the public.

Representatives of various industry groups, including the California Restaurant Association, said they were neutral until they found out where Gloria wants to peg the minimum wage level.

The Neighborhood Market Association, which represents independently owned liquor and convenience stores, supports having paid sick days. A representative said the minimum wage increase cannot be too big or prices will be forced to rise — which could drive off customers.

 –City News Service

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