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Minimum wage petition drive gets testy

With the petition drive to overturn San Diego's minimum wage increase firmly underway, both sides are accusing the other of unfair tactics, from misleading voters to intimidating signature-gatherers.

"Union goons" is how Jason Cabel Roe, coordinator of the petition campaign, describes the opponents, whom he accuses of temporarily stealing signed petitions or following signature gatherers in a harassing manner.

"These tactics are not new but reached unprecedented levels of harassment with circulators being verbally abused, followed on foot or by car, and having their petitions stolen," Roe said.

"Ruthless and sleazy" is how former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana described the signature-gathering campaign. Saldana, who monitored petition sites over the weekend, disputes the accusations of intimidation and instead charges that the petition-distributors are lying to voters in order to boost their salaries, because they can get paid $2.35 per valid signature.

“These firms stand to win tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses when they qualify these initiatives, and the stakes are very high,” Saldana said.

A "Decline to Sign" campaign launched by San Diego City Council Todd Gloria has been sending monitors to petition tables — mostly at supermarket entrances — to see if the petition-gatherers are accurately describing the ordinance.

Over the past several days, they have released three videotapes and one audio tape showing petition-gatherers misstating what the law says or overstating its potential impact on the local economy.

One signature-gatherer told voters the City Council was raising the minimum wage to $15, instead of its three-year target of $11.50. Another warned that the wage hike could trigger massive inflation, doubling the price of supermarket goods — which hasn't been seen anyplace the minimum wage has been raised.

Roe did not dispute that the statements were false. He said he is taking steps to identify at least three of the four people caught on tape so he can fire them.

But he added that the supporters of the wage hike were engaged a "bullying campaign" that reportedly included a two-person team who allegedly grabbed four petition clipboards from a petition table at a Von's parking lot on Clairemont Drive and then got in a car and sped off.

A Von's employee later found the clipboards in the parking lot.

Saldana, who was at the Vons at about the time the clipboard theft allegedly occurred, said she doubts the story, adding she saw no evidence of any of the kind of activity that the petition distributor described.

Other members of the anti-petition drive say that the description of the people who were allegedly involved does not match any of their workers in the area.

But Roe stands by the account.

"There is no reason for this uncivil and undemocratic behavior, which only leaves a stain on those who are perpetuating it," he said.


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