By Doug Porter
It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.
The City Clerk certified the results of a referendum drive backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other dark money interests yesterday. They sought to delay an ordinance passed by the City Council increasing the local minimum wage and allowing for earned sick days by placing it on the June 2016 ballot.
They achieved their goal by perverting a system originally designed to protect the public from the undo influence of the Southern Pacific Railroad and other would-be oligarchs. Hired guns from around the country were flown in and paid up to $12 per signature after other canvassers quit in droves, unable to face the public with the lies required of them to earn a living.
This was a matter of economic justice for nearly 200,000 San Diegans who would be impacted by this ordinance; for the working women who would see the wage gap shrink by 22%; for the 10,000 veterans working at or near minimum wage; and for the restaurant employees who are forced to choose between working while sick or paying the rent.
The issue will now go to the City Council, which also has the option to rescind the ordinance or place it on the June, 2016 ballot. There will be a hearing next Monday at City Hall (2pm) where these options will be discussed, and supporters of the ordinance are expected to show up in force to let the council know they are still willing to fight for an increase.
Chamber of Commerce CEO and shadow Mayor Jerry Saunders seemed pleased with the news from the San Diego City Clerk Liz Maland.
“Our successful effort to qualify the referendum proves that voters find this issue important enough to combat aggressive blocking from the opposition to make sure that City Council knows they don’t agree with this bad policy,” the former mayor said in a statement.
“An increase in the minimum wage of this magnitude would be detrimental to San Diego jobs, the economy and small businesses and would put our city at a competitive disadvantage as compared to nearby cities not affected by such an increase,” he said.
If you are naive enough to believe the Chamber of Commerce actually wanted voters to weigh in, I’ve got some unicorns I’d like to sell you. The city council’s decision just to pass the ordinance outright was based on the premise that San Diego’s moneyed interests might be able to buy the results of a low voter turnout in the upcoming general election.
Rabbi Laurie Coskey took the lead in expressing reaction for those supporting the ordinance.
From an op-ed in today’s UT-San Diego:
A short-term victory for anti-minimum wage backers is a tragedy for all of San Diego. In very real terms, this means people like Andrea Tookes, a low-paid security officer, can’t be home at night to help her children with their math homework because she needs to work extra hours in addition to her full-time job just to buy groceries.
When Jessie Thomas, a server in a local restaurant, is sick, she cannot afford to stay home because her lost wages cause her to fall behind on her rent. Who wants a sick server waiting on them? It is inhumane to let our friends, neighbors or even strangers remain in such dire poverty when we have the power to improve the lives of many San Diegans with one common-sense change in policy. San Diego can do better for the hundreds of thousands of working people who lack sick days and a self-sufficient wage.
This measure, currently supported by 63 percent of San Diego voters, puts $260 million dollars into the pockets of San Diego’s lowest income working families, who will turn around and spend most of that money at local stores and businesses. When people live in financial distress, as minimum wage workers do, they spend any increase in pay just to support their basic needs and those of their families. That’s good for hardworking people, good for local businesses and good for our economy. We all win when people are paid more.
Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
I hope the gang at the Chamber of Commerce are enjoying their champagne celebration over taking 75 cents an hour away from this city’s working poor come January 1st. I’d love to have video of that party just to show the world how selfish and cruel they are.
While the regional Gross Domestic Product, a measure of economic output, grew to $1.2 billion in 2013 above the pre-recession level, seven thousand people in San Diego joined the ranks just over the past year of those officially considered poor.
Susan Duerksen, writing at the CPI blog,(you should read the whole thing, it’s terrific) put this into perspective:
Do employers have a responsibility to pay enough for a person’s time that the employee can live? If they don’t, then we all as taxpayers pick up some of the tab, and people who are working hard to support themselves live without things most of us would consider necessities, including family time, privacy and three meals a day.
Within the City of San Diego, a total of 144,968 adults and 64,077 children lived in official poverty last year, with household incomes below the federal poverty threshold.
How many more San Diegans are poor but not below the official cutoff? A full third of the city population – 443,584 people — lived with household incomes up to double the federal poverty level. That’s a level still too low to independently meet the basic costs of living in this region. Without the money for basic needs, every day is a dreary struggle to get the family enough food, maintain some kind of shelter and juggle bills.
That’s how a third of us live in this sunny, wealthy city.
A study released by the Economic Policy Institute this week shows that raising the minimum wage nationally to $10.10 and hour would save the government $7.6 billion annually in safety net programs.
The reality is that lower minimum wages allow for businesses to count on taxpayers to subsidize their operations. And that, my friends, is what the Chamber of Commerce is really fighting for when they oppose increasing the minimum wage.
Over at UT-San Diego, Manchester’s minions smell a rat in all this.
Speculation among some of those closely involved in the issue is that the council, perhaps as early as Monday, will indeed vote merely to rescind the ordinance approved last summer. But that would not be the end of it. The expectation of the council’s majority Democratic bloc would be that San Diego labor unions would then take the lead with a voter initiative of their own to place an even higher minimum wage proposal on the ballot in November 2016.
That would have three advantages from labor’s perspective: An initiative would not fall under the same proscription that the council faces in regard to the legal question of a new proposal that is substantially different; unlike a new council ordinance, an initiative would not be subject to a mayoral veto or another business-led referendum; and the presidential election in November 2016 could be expected to produce a significantly higher voter turnout than any other election, with high turnouts historically more favorable to Democrats.
For once, I think the UT might be on to something.
The editorial concludes with an appeal to the council to “sit down with business leaders and others” and work out something mutually agreeable, like…oh, I don’t know… cutting taxes, reducing regulation and increasing enrollment in privately run diploma mills. And we’re supposed to believe this plea is based on their deep concern for “struggling low-income workers.”
You’ve Had Your Chance
Sorry guys, we’ve had 40 years of trickle down and all that’s happened is that the rich have gotten richer. Deregulating the financial sector and its subsequent collapse wiped out the real estate equity that was the foundation of the middle class.
As I recollect City Council President Todd Gloria threw open his office door for “business leaders and others” last spring to negotiate compromises on his original proposal.. Just about nobody was interested. Mayor Kevin Faulconer dispatched “observers” who saw nothing happening. Gloria ended up taking a lot of criticism for essentially negotiating with himself in the hopes that some in the business sector would find it acceptable.
The time has come for the council and progressives in San Diego to stand up and do the right thing. If the increase in the minimum wage is to be delayed, let’s make that increase when it finally comes a meaningful one.
Fifteen dollars an hour on the ballot in November 2016 sounds good for starters.
On This Day:1931 – Al Capone was convicted on income tax evasion and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was released in 1939. 1950 – The “Salt of the Earth” strike begins by the mostly Mexican-American members of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 890 in Bayard, N.M. Strikers’ wives walked picket lines for seven months when their men were enjoined during the 14-month strike against the New Jersey Zinc Co. 1967 – The musical “Hair” premiered at New York’s Public Theatre. The show ran for 1,758 performances.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@