A business coalition with funding from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and other business groups formally launched a petition drive Thursday aimed at overturning the San Diego City Council's recently adopted hike in the minimum wage.
"Initially, we're starting out with 30 or 40 volunteers and paid petition-gatherers who are now going through training, but this kind of thing snowballs," said Jason Cabell Roe of the Revolvis political consulting group, who is spearheading the campaign.
The petition aims at subjecting the ordinance to a public referendum, which will most likely be put on the next scheduled election, June 2016. If the petition-distributors gather enough signatures, the ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2015, will be blocked until after the vote is cast.
Supporters of the wage hike, however, plan to distribute leaflets at petition sites to dissuade people from signing up, as well as conducting a social media campaign.
In an online column posted on the Times of San Diego website on Thursday, for instance, Mel Katz, a co-owner of the regional operations of the Manpower Group employment firm, and basketball great and entrepreneur Bill Walton, asked voters not to sign the petition.
"All that this petition drive is going to do is postpone implementation for 18 months, keeping hardworking San Diegans from earning enough money to make ends meet," Katz said in an interview.
Katz cited recent polls that showed that two-thirds of San Diegans support the minimum wage hike. Roe did not dispute those findings but said that other polls show that 60 percent of San Diegans would like the measure put to a public vote.
"Why do that?" Katz asked. "We elect people to represent us and a supermajority of our elected representatives on the City Council voted to raise the wage. Why don't we let them do their job? When California passed the minimum wage, we didn't put it on the ballot."
Katz said he was afraid the petition-distributors — many of whom get paid according to how many legitimate signatures they gather — will misrepresent the issue to encourage people to sign.
In fact, City Council President Todd Gloria, who spearheaded the wage proposal and shepherded it to its passage, on Thursday posted an online video of a signature-gatherer trying to get him to sign the petition "so the state can't force the city of San Diego to increase the minimum wage yet."
Roe said the campaign would not tolerate such misstatements and that it is trying to ensure that petition-gatherers receive thorough training on the issue. He said the signature-gatherer who confronted Gloria had only been trained less than 24 hours before and was apparently confused.
City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, meanwhile, has complained about the campaign's characterization of the wage hike as a 44 percent increase in wages, when it is actually slated to be only 75 cents above the statewide minimum wage on Jan. 1, 2015, and 50 cents above the statewide minimum the next year.
But Roe said the 44 percent starts with the statewide increase that began on July 1, which raised the minimum wage from $8 to $9, and ends with the local wage's rise to $11.50 by Jan. 1, 2017. He said Lightner was engaging in "fuzzy math" by not including the impact of the statewide increase.
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