A group of about 50 activists rallied Wednesday morning (April 30), holding a prayer circle on the city seal 12 floors below the city-council chambers downtown in support of council president Todd Gloria's proposal to put a new minimum wage of $13.09 per hour before voters this November. The results of the council meeting that followed, however, might lead to an outcome that most attendees would view in an even better light.
"We're hoping to convince the city council today that they're on the right track," said Wayne Riggs, a former pastor representing the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, the group that organized the rally. "Most members of the council, including the leadership, support a living wage. We want to let them know that there's a large population of San Diegans that supports their initiative."
Speakers also cautioned the group against signing petitions for a "sham" ballot measure recently introduced to compete with Gloria's proposal. Under the competing plan, minimum wage would rise to $12 per hour by 2018 instead of $13.09 by 2017. It also contains a host of exemptions, allowing any company with 25 or fewer employees — including a large-scale chain operation with fewer than 25 employees at any one site — to disregard the city's minimum-wage laws and rely instead on the state's, which places the current base pay at $8 per hour and rises to $10 by 2016. The rival plan also excludes a sick-pay component Gloria's contains, whereby any employee, full-or-part-time, would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
"Let's be clear about what that petition means — it exempts 93 percent of all businesses in the city," said labor leader Richard Barrera. "They're going to use every trick they have in their playbook to try to prevent [Gloria's proposal from being enacted]."
Once the council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee met on Wednesday, they voted 3-1 to have Gloria work with city attorney Jan Goldsmith's office to craft a plan to place the proposed ordinance on the ballot. But they went a step further, also voting, at the suggestion of councilmember David Alvarez, to direct Gloria and the city attorney to explore an option that would allow the council to enact a minimum-wage law without having to place it on the ballot.
Councilmember Mark Kersey, saying not enough information was available on how the move would affect competition between businesses in San Diego and neighboring cities, was the lone dissenting vote. Gloria and Goldsmith representatives are to deliver a progress report on June 11.