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Monday, Jun 16, 2014 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Todd Gloria compromises on minimum wage

But mayor, Chamber of Commerce remain opposed

By Kelly Davis
minwage Ace Hardware owner Harry Schwartz at today's press conference
- Photo by Kelly Davis
What a difference a few days—and a few bucks—makes. On June 5, Harry Schwartz, who owns the Gaslamp Ace Hardware, offered up his storefront for a joint Chamber of Commerce / San Diego County Taxpayers Association press conference to point out flaws in a proposed local hike in the minimum wage. Schwartz said that his business, which already pays workers above the state minimum, wouldn't be able to absorb any additional increases. 

Today, Schwartz was at City Hall to support of a scaled-back wage-increase proposal by City Council President Todd Gloria.

Gloria's original plan, released in April, would have raised San Diego’s minimum wage to $11.09 on July 1, 2015; to $12.09 the following year; and to $13.09 on July 1, 2017. At that point, annual increases would be indexed for inflation. Gloria's new proposal, which he described as a "common-sense measure," would increase the local minimum wage to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2015; to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2016; and to $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. Indexing for inflation would start on Jan. 1, 2019. 

Schwartz said at today's press conference that Gloria's scaled-back proposal was doable. "When we were looking at a number like $13.09, it was going to have a significant impact on all business types." 

The $13.09 proposal was based on a cost-of-living study put out by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a left-wing think tank, showing that a single adult living in San Diego would need to make that much—assuming a 40-hour work week—to meet basic needs. 

Clare Crawford, CPI's executive director, said in an email that while her organization "strongly supports the original proposal," they're OK with Gloria's compromise, which still includes an earned-sick-days provision.  

"It will still give thousands and thousands of working San Diegans more money to spend on basic needs that will benefit our entire economy, and protect the health of all San Diegans by giving the 82 percent of restaurant workers, as well as thousands of others, the financial ability to take a day off when they or their loved ones are ill."

The Chamber of Commerce, however, remains opposed. In an emailed statement, Chamber CEO Jerry Sanders said he "appreciates" Gloria's willingness to compromise, but anything above the state-mandated minimum (currently $9, increasing to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016) "would put San Diego at a competitive disadvantage compared to nearby cities."

A spokesperson for Mayor Kevin Faulconer echoed this, saying in an email that the mayor "continues to be concerned about any proposal that puts San Diego, its small businesses and jobs at a competitive disadvantage."

And, via press release, a new group calling itself the San Diego Small Business Coalition, comprising representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Neighborhood Market Association and California Restaurant Association, referred to the scaled-back wage hike as "massive" and argued that businesses would "be forced to raise prices and slash benefits and payroll." 

In 2012, as part of its campaign against a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage in San Jose, the California Restaurant Association commissioned a study that predicted the city would see up to 3,100 lost jobs. Instead, a year after voters approved the measure, unemployment decreased in San Jose—from 7.6 percent to 5.8 percent—and 9,000 new businesses started up. Gloria pointed this out at today's press conference. "The sky-is-falling predictions did not come to pass," he said.