By Joel Fox.
The San Diego Small Business Coalition said they have enough signatures to freeze the new San Diego minimum wage law and force a vote on the issue in 2016. The business coalition better put away whatever savings they gain from the wage freeze because history shows they will have a tough fight ahead of them.
No question small businesses have to adjust costs and hiring practices when the law requires a boost in the business’s wage costs. But voters have generally supported a minimum wage increase when it comes before them.
San Diego businesses opposed to the minimum wage law intend to turn the tide.
The San Diego law, first vetoed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer but overridden by the city council, proposed lifting the San Diego minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017 from its current $9.75. Business advocates in the city gathered 56,000 signatures, more than 60% more than they needed to force a referendum. While efforts are still on-going by opponents of the referendum to have petition signers withdraw their signatures, the cushion appears large enough to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Ironically, the minimum wage debate likely will have shifted by the time San Diego voters have their say in 2016.
Other cities on the West Coast, starting with Seattle’s much noticed $15.00 an hour minimum wage, will have been in effect for a while by the time San Diegans vote and the impact a minimum wage increase has on the local economy and local businesses can be measured and debated.
Also, voters in other states will have made their feelings about a minimum wage increase known by the time San Diego votes.
Fortune lists the following minimum wage measures on five state ballots this November:
- In Alaska, voters will decide whether to raise the minimum wage from $7.75 to $8.75 by January 1, 2015 and to $9.75 a year after that.
- South Dakotans will consider boosting state minimum wage by $1.25 to $8.50.
- A non-binding measure for a $10 minimum wage will be put to a statewide vote in Illinois, where the current rate is $8.25.
- Nebraska voters will determine whether to hike the minimum wage to from $7.25 to $8 in 2015 and to $9 in 2016.
- Presuming the initiative has garnered enough signatures—advocates submitted them for a count on Monday— Arkansas residents will vote yes or no to a measure to increase the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 to $7.50 on January 1, 2015, and to $8 and $8.50 in the following two years.
Since 1996, all 13 minimum wage measures on state ballots have been approved.
Across the country, polls often show strong support for minimum wage increases.
When the Field Poll asked Californians in June whether they thought the minimum wage should go above its scheduled increase of $10 an hour by January 2016 the results were split. 48% thought the minimum wage should be higher, 47% thought it was adequate at that rate or should be lower.
In July, when the San Diego City Council voted to raise the minimum wage, a Channel 10News/U-T San Diego poll showed narrow support for the minimum wage increase, 51% to 46%.
San Diego supporters of the referendum will have to work hard to get their message across. Which is what they plan to do.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, who heads the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, said, “We’re prepared to wage an aggressive education effort so that voters understand what this means to our economy and the loss of jobs.”