SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Opponents of an incremental increase in the minimum wage in San Diego said Tuesday they turned in around 56,000 petition signatures to the county Registrar of Voters Office.
If close to 34,000 of the names are verified, the wage hike would be suspended, and the City Council would have to decide whether to repeal the ordinance or place the issue before voters. If they opt for a vote, the council members would have to stage a costly special election or wait until the June 2016 primary ballot.
"The ball is in the City Council's court," said Jerry Sanders, CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the opposition to the increase.
In July, the City Council approved the hike on a 6-3 vote and, a month later, overrode a veto by Mayor Kevin Faulconer. It was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, with the lowest pay rising from the current state minimum of $9 an hour to $9.75 -- which will still occur if the petition drive falls short.
The minimum wage would go to $10.50 in January 2016 and $11.50 in January 2017. Beginning in January 2019, the pay scale would be indexed to inflation.
The ordinance also requires employers to provide workers five paid sick days each year.
At a news conference, Sanders called the law "bad policy."
Opponents contend that the hikes would raise costs for small businesses, making their products uncompetitive with those outside San Diego and resulting in either job losses or reduced hours for employees.
The chief proponent of the ordinance, council President Todd Gloria, says raising the minimum wage would provide well over 100,000 San Diegans extra cash they need to live in a high-cost city. The sick day provision, he says, will keep workers from showing up when ill, especially those who work with the public or in food preparation.
If enough of the signatures prove valid, it would be the third successful referendum effort by the business community in the past year.
One measure that qualified for the ballot and was passed overwhelmingly by voters sought to update zoning guidelines in Barrio Logan, but a buffer zone created to untangle residential and industrial land uses was opposed by the area's shipyards.
The other also qualified, but the council opted to repeal an increase of a levy on commercial construction that funds affordable housing projects. Business leaders and the San Diego Housing Commission have since reached a compromise, which is under review by city staff.
On Monday, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, and Democratic Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez and Shirley Weber called on the state Attorney General's Office and San Diego County's district attorney to investigate claims that petition circulators lied to the public when they made their pitches for signatures to the public.