Minimum Wage Fight in San Diego Fizzling Fast


Minimum Wage Fight in San Diego Fizzling Fast

A bill to increase the minimum wage to $13 per hour statewide by 2017 passed the State Senate and may make San Diego's fight over $11.50 meaningless. At the same time, it's unclear how enthusiastic the opposition to $11.50 per hour is here as other cities go much higher.

The California state Senate has approved a minimum wage hike for the state to $13 per hour. It still has to get an Assembly nod and then the governor’s signature.

But it appears to be another indication that the big fight we were bracing for in San Diego as voters contemplated an $11.50 minimum wage may actually end with a whimper. Opponents of the hike successfully pushed it to a referendum and voters will decide on it in June 2016.

The increase would have phased in and reached the full $11.50 by 2017. A state minimum of $13 in 2017 would render it meaningless, though I don’t know if it would still appear on the ballot. And even if the bill fails in the Assembly or at the governor’s desk, it’s unclear who would mount the fight to throw out San Diego’s minimum wage hike.

State Sen. Mark Leno’s bill would make the minimum wage $11 per hour next year throughout California and $13 an hour by 2019. Then it would index the minimum wage after that to inflation.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, from San Diego, is a co-author.

On Twitter, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins’ communications consultant, Dave Rolland, said the speaker hasn’t taken a position on Leno’s bill. But “In March, [Atkins] said full-timers shouldn’t live in poverty, and at that time, she put the needed wage at $13.70.”

That’s a pretty strong indication $13 has a chance.

At the same time, it’s unclear here how strong the minimum wage opposition will be when San Diego’s own increase hits ballots in 2016. I was surprised to hear the executive director of the Lincoln Club, Ryan Clumpner, on our podcast, say he’s not sure the group will even weigh in.

“The Lincoln Club internally is not unanimous on even the current minimum wage proposal,” Clumpner said.

The Lincoln Club would seem like a natural opponent of the measure. The group eschews social issues for only fiscal and business priorities in political debates. Its membership includes business leaders who would be most impacted by the minimum wage hike.

The reluctance to fire at San Diego’s minimum wage hike could be strategic right now. Conservatives may not want to give progressives anything to rally behind and drive up turnout for a June 2016 primary that could have some big wins for right-of-center candidates. On the other hand, business interests might be spooked after seeing other much larger minimum wage hikes in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco go through easily.

They might see San Diego’s push for $11.50 by 2017 as a fortunate outcome.

The governor is now the biggest wild card. If he rejects a push to raise the minimum wage even higher — and his signature is hardly guaranteed — individual battles in places like San Diego might still rage.

But it also seems like yet another issue — like the plastic bag ban — on which a tapestry of municipal movements has forced the state’s hand to create more consistency.

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