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City panel advances minimum wage proposal

A San Diego City Council committee on Monday pushed forward a proposal to create a "significant increase" in the local minimum wage and require businesses to offer at least five days of paid sick leave per year to longer-term workers.

Council President Todd Gloria, who introduced the proposal before the economic development and intergovernmental relations committee, did not suggest a specific target for the wage.

But Gloria cited studies by San Diego's Center for Policy Research that suggest an individual San Diego worker would need to make at least $13.09 per hour to make ends meet in the city — well above the current statewide rate of $8 per hour, which is scheduled to rise to $9 on July 1 and $10 in 2014.

"Too many families are struggling and actually can't afford to live in this city, despite the fact that they are working full-time," Gloria said. "I think we can do better than that. People who work hard, an honest day's work, should not have to struggle to meet their basic needs."

Gloria suggested a phase-in period for the wage hike, including a slightly slower phase-in for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. But he did not propose how long the phase-in should be in either category because he wants to review the issue with the City Attorney's office.

The proposal for paid sick leave was firmer — requiring employers to provide five days of paid sick leave "regardless of industry or business type." But there were no details about how long it would take for the sick leave to be accrued.

In a 2-1 vote, the committee asked Gloria to work with the City Attorney's office to develop a detailed draft proposal by April 30, with the goal of the whole council approving it in time to be included as a public referendum on the November ballot.

Because the proposal still needs to be fleshed out, response from local business groups was muted.

Representatives of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Hotel and Motel Owners Association and the local chapter of the California Restaurant Association, or CRA, each told the committee that it was too early to take a firm stand on the proposal.

But they all asked the committee to ask the city's Independent Budget Analyst or a similar agency to conduct a detailed study of the potential economic impact of the proposal before it is put on the ballot.

"We do ask that you look at any impacts, both to the city as well as small business," said Chris Duggan, the CRA's local director of government relations.

Duggan also asked the committee to check out other wage studies, including a "living wage calculator" from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which suggests that workers need only $11.38 per hour to survive in San Diego, rather than the $13.09 figure that the Center for Policy Research suggests.

Councilmember Mark Kersey suggested that any rise in the minimum wage should be on a statewide basis, worrying that raising the wage in San Diego could lead some businesses to leave San Diego for surrounding communities.

Kersey said he was not worried about the impact that a wage hike would affect companies like McDonald's.

"Whatever happens, they're going to be OK," Kersey said. "But I am concerned about the small businesses; they are not sitting on huge piles of cash."

Kersey voted against the proposal but was outweighed by fellow committee members Sherri Lightner and Marti Emerald, who voted for it.

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City of San Diego

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San Diego, CA 92101

City of San Diego Executive(s):

Sherri Lightner

  • Council President Pro Tem

Kevin Faulconer

  • Mayor

Todd Gloria

  • Council President

Myrtle Cole

  • City Council Member

Mark Kersey

  • City Council Member

Lorie Zapf

  • City Council Member

Scott Sherman

  • City Council Member

David Alvarez

  • City Council Member

Marti Emerald

  • City Council Member

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