Council President Todd Gloria unveils 'compromise' minimum wage proposal

SAN DIEGO - A revised proposal to hike the minimum wage in San Diego to $11.50 an hour was referred by the City Council to city staff Monday so that required negotiations with organized labor can begin.

The proposed pay hike, which could go before San Diego voters this fall, was revised downward by its chief proponent, City Council President Todd Gloria, who originally proposed an incremental increase to $13.09 an hour.

At a news conference before the City Council meeting, he unveiled what he called a "reasonable compromise." The wage hike would be phased in over three years, and like, the earlier proposal, would require employers to give workers five earned sick days.

Gloria, whose original proposal drew opposition from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, some members of the City Council and business groups, said he met numerous times with representatives of both sides of the issue.

"During those exchanges, I heard that my proposal brought too much change, too fast, and that a higher minimum wage would put San Diego at a competitive disadvantage," Gloria said. "This is a common-sense compromise that reduces the potential impact on businesses while maintaining tremendous benefits for our workers and our economy."

The direction Monday by the City Council, approved on a 6-3 party-line vote, keeps the options open for the pay increase to be submitted to the voters in November's general election, or to be simply adopted directly by the council as an ordinance. Which direction the council ultimately takes is not expected until next month.

Gloria contends that increasing compensation to the lowest-paid workers would increase the earning power of 220,000 San Diegans and stimulate the economy.

Business groups and small business owners counter that a higher pay rate would force them to reduce their employees' hours or raise prices and that raising the city's minimum wage above those of the state would put San Diego at a competitive disadvantage.

About 30 small business owners rallied outside the City Administration Building to voice concerns, including how consumer price indexing is tied to minimum wage.

"This small business community standing behind me has asked for three months that total compensation be taken into consideration. That's bonus pay, merit pay and gratuities. Mr. Gloria has ignored these requests," said Chris Duggan, San Diego Restaurants Association.

California law specifies that workers make at least $8 an hour. The rate is due to climb to $9 next month and $10 in two years.

Gloria's proposal would raise the minimum hourly wage in San Diego to $9.75 on Jan. 1, $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2016, and $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. Beginning in 2019, the pay rate would be indexed to inflation.

His proposal does not single out any types of businesses or organizations for exemptions. He did, however, say he was willing to consider a training wage that could be paid to teen employees who are seeking work experience.

Also not included is a different calculation for people who earn tips, such as restaurant workers. State law precludes tips from being factored into wage calculations, according to Gloria.

"It's important that those people know their city cares about them. We are going to do something to help them out and that we are going to lift them up out of the poverty that they're in and reward them for working," said Gloria.

The City Attorney's Office said it is studying the tip issue. Also, the city's independent budget analyst's office said it is looking into how much it might cost the city to enforce the hike.

During about two hours of public testimony, business groups continued to express their opposition to the proposal, even with the lower figure. A new group of business owners who have fashioned themselves as the San Diego Small Business Coalition said even the smaller dollar amount equates to a 44 percent wage increase.

Ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is now the CEO of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, said he appreciated Gloria's lower dollar amount but said it should at least match the state minimum wage.

Workers like Ivan Jimenez, who supports his family and hopes attend college to become a doctor, said, "I mean it has to start somewhere. That's the way I have to see it, in a positive way. I want to start by helping my family and then helping myself to help my family."

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