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Council to decide on minimum wage

Two weeks after California raised its minimum wage from $8 to $9 per hour, the San Diego City Council will vote on Monday on how to handle a proposal to raise the local minimum to $11.50 over the next three years.

Judging from previous votes, the measure is widely expected to have the support of six of the Council's nine members. Less clear is whether the council will pass the measure under its own authority or instead put it up to a public vote on the November ballot.

Either way, the action could lead to another costly battle between the council and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, which, in the past several months, threw its weight behind the shipyards' successful referendum to overturn the Barrio Logan zoning plan and heavily funded a referendum campaign that has temporarily stalled a proposed hike on fees to support affordable housing.

Under a proposal by Council President Todd Gloria, San Diego's minimum wage would rise to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2015; $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2016; and $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. Gloria had initially wanted to push the wage to $13.09 by 2017, but he lowered his target to gain support from local businesses, who complained that salaries would rise too fast for them to handle.

That was enough to change the mind of Harry Schwartz, owner of the Ace Hardware outlet in the Gaslamp District, who had previously been one of the most visible critics of the proposal. After Gloria lowered his wage target last month, Schwartz said he supported the proposal as a way to "address San Diego's poverty issue without driving away small business."

Many other businesses — mostly in the hotel, restaurant and home health care industries — have been less accepting. The California Restaurant Association has been trying to persuade Gloria to carve out exemptions for employees who are partially paid by tips or to allow lower pay for young or inexperienced trainees.

Under state law, inexperienced employees can be paid a "training wage" of 85 percent of the statewide minimum, which would be $7.25 per hour after the July 1 hike to $9, but Gloria's proposal does not include such a provision.

Many restaurateurs appear to have coped with the July 1 hike by adding a few pennies to the prices of their products. Such chains as McDonald's, Denny's, Chipotle and Jack in the Box have recently announced price hikes ranging from 3 to 25 cents on certain products, but most of those increases are actually tied to constrictions in the beef supply and rising prices in other commodities.

But the price rises are not universal. Jimbo's … Naturally, a 400-worker Carlsbad-based natural food chain, raised its minimum wage to $10 per hour on July 1 for checkout helpers and $10.50 per hour for all other workers without raising prices.

Jim “Jimbo” Someck, founder and owner of the 30-year-old chain, said he feels it's in the store's best interests to raise the minimum wage while continuing to provide health benefits, a 401(k) program, employee discounts and paid time off.

"We've gotten to the size where we can afford to do this without having to raise prices," he said. "It'll just mean working smarter and more efficiently."

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San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Company Website

402 West Broadway Ste., 1000
San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive(s):

Jerry Sanders

  • Chief Executive Officer, President

Ruben Barrales

  • Chief Executive Officer

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