City Council President Todd Gloria proposed a ballot initiative Wednesday that, if approved by voters, would increase San Diego’s minimum wage to $13.09 per hour over the next three years.

Gloria first proposed the idea in January, at the time calling for a “meaningful” hike without specifying how much until a news conference Wednesday at a news conference.

The minimum wage debate has lead to a ballot measure in San Diego. Photo credit: Americanprogressaction.org

The proposal, which needs City Council approval to be put on a ballot, would also give employees five paid sick days per year.

After Gloria’s announcement, Mayor Kevin Faulconer expressed opposition.

“I believe the better way to support San Diego small businesses and protect jobs is to follow the minimum wage increases set at the state and federal levels, which ensures our city remains on a level playing field with surrounding cities that compete with San Diego for jobs,” Faulconer said. “I am concerned about any proposal that puts our city at a competitive disadvantage against other cities, which can hurt job growth and San Diego working families.”

Gloria said he spent the past three months talking to stakeholders on all sides of the issue and looking at studies on the subject. He said details of the proposal could change, pending City Council discussions.

Nearly everyone acknowledges the current minimum wage, set by the state at $8 per hour, is too low, he said.

“The San Diego proposal would have a major, positive economic impact for workers and their families and on the San Diego economy,” Gloria said. “To those who fear losing their businesses, please remember that these additional wages will be spent by workers on necessities like food and services — it will go right back into San Diego’s economy.”

The state plans to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour in July and to $10 an hour in two years.

If voters pass the initiative in November, the minimum wage in San Diego will go to $11.09 in July 2015, to $12.09 in July 2016 and to $13.09 in July 2017, according to Gloria.

The Center on Policy Initiatives recently estimated 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 study.

Peter Brownell, the research director for CPI, said about 200,000 employees would get a “significant raise” if the minimum wage is increased, resulting in $2,800 in additional annual income. About 260,000 workers in San Diego have no paid sick leave, he said.

Faulconer and Councilman Mark Kersey previously called for an independent study on the  impact of a minimum wage increase.

Jerry Sanders, the CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that his organization supports a federal move to increase the minimum wage, which would set a nationwide standard.

“The proposal to create a separate minimum wage in the city of San Diego and significantly increase the rate well in excess of what has been adopted by the state of California not only puts San Diego at a competitive and economic disadvantage, it would also hurt the very workforce the proponents are purporting to help,” Sanders said.

Councilwomen Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner have expressed support for Gloria’s proposal.

City Councilman David Alvarez said he believes the minimum wage should be in the $12-$13 range.

The San Diego Organizing Project plans a rally this evening in Barrio Logan aimed at persuading Alvarez to back the effort to set higher local minimum wage.

– City News Service

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