San Diego City President Todd Gloria, who led the fight to raise the minimum wage. Photo by Chris Stone

The minimum wage in San Diego will go up on Jan. 1 after the City Council Monday approved both the increase and a requirement that companies offer five earned sick days annually.

By passing the increase directly, the council, by a 6-3 margin, skipped the original plan by Council President Todd Gloria to put the issue to a public vote in November.

The ordinance will increase the hourly minimum wage to $9.75 on Jan. 1, $10.50 in January of 2016 and $11.50 in January of 2017. Beginning in January 2019, the pay scale will be indexed to inflation.

“San Diegans know that a stronger workforce and a stronger economy will result from passage of the proposal (tonight) and will get San Diego just a bit closer to being a great city,” Gloria said.

He said San Diego is joining a national movement toward higher wages.

“This is a reasonable, common sense proposal that maintains tremendous benefits for our workers and our local economy while reducing the potential impacts on businesses,” Gloria said.

Supporters said having extra money in their pockets will make it easier to live in a high-cost city. Gloria’ original proposal had been $13.09 an hour, a figure that a community group pegged as the amount needed to live here on a no-frills budget.

On the other hand, Channelle Hawken, of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said raising the minimum wage above that of California would put the city at a competitive disadvantage.

“We are already seeing and hearing from our members that have businesses that are raising prices and cutting jobs in response to the current increase in the (state) minimum wage,” Hawken said. The state minimum hourly wage went from $8 to $9 on July 1.

Hawken said a recent survey of chamber members found that the proposed minimum wage increase is a bigger concern than healthcare expenses, and that 14 percent of members are considering moving out of San Diego.

Harry Schwartz, a former critic of Gloria’s proposal, said he is now on the fence.

Schwartz, who co-owns the downtown Ace Hardware with his sister, said he supports the wage hike to $11.50 an hour “as we believe this is a compromise that will help address San Diego’s poverty issue without decimating our small business.”

However, he said he could not offer full support because the plan does not envision lower wages for youth workers or trainees.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said a tiered system would violate state labor law.

Council members Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf cast the dissenting votes.

Supporters of the sick leave requirement said it will keep employees from showing up for their jobs while ill and infecting the public and their co- workers.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.

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