The Minimum Wage Fight Appears to Be Done - Voice of San Diego

City Council UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

The Minimum Wage Fight Appears to Be Done

A mayoral veto or a business-backed petition drive is still possible, but there’s a good chance Democrats could overcome either.

Back in January, San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria told voters they’d have a ballot measure on whether to raise the city’s minimum wage in November.

It got done four months sooner than that, and without a single voter. All signs point to the fight over the wage hike being over.

Monday night, the Council voted 6-3 to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, with smaller increases starting in January.

Some things could happen to overturn the wage increase, but it seems unlikely they will.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer could veto the deal.

Faulconer, a Republican, opposes the increase. But the Council could override a veto with six votes – the same number that passed the measure. Faulconer also has been pretty silent about his intentions since the vote.

Interestingly, the February special election that swept Faulconer into office helped the wage get raised. The loser in the election, Democratic Councilman David Alvarez, first brought up the idea of increasing the wage without a vote. And Ed Harris, a Democrat, replaced Faulconer on the Council. Harris provided the vote that makes Faulconer’s potential veto meaningless.

The business community could lead a referendum to overturn the wage hike.

This has happened successfully before in the recent past with business-backed petition drives that ultimately doomed Council decisions to increase the affordable housing fee and implement a new community plan in Barrio Logan. Business leaders already are making some noise about doing it again.

But this time seems harder. Getting people to sign petitions to toss out a wage hike for workers is no easy sell. Gloria, at a Tuesday press conference, threw some more cold water on the idea. He said there wasn’t enough time to collect petitions to force the issue onto the November ballot. So the first it could appear is June 2016, he said, which means the battle would drag on for years. If business groups decide to fight back, advocates for a wage increase could put an even larger hike on the ballot themselves, a risk opponents might not want to take.

“I think that everyone can see that this is a reasonable compromise that was adopted last night and that we ought to embrace this and move forward with this rather than have a protracted battle that could have more unintended consequences for businesses in the future,” Gloria said.

Gloria said he would’ve rather voters raised the wage through a ballot measure. But two things happened since he first put a wage increase forward. He learned the Council could legally hike the wage on its own, and realized his colleagues wanted to raise the wage without a vote.

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