Gloria: “This is not over yet”

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A big topic on the 2016 ballot will be the minimum wage increase proposal. The City Council actually passed a minimum wage increase earlier this year, but a subsequent referendum against the increase received enough signatures to force the council to either repeal the increase or place it on the ballot for public vote. On Monday, the council decided to have the issue placed on the ballot. City Council President Todd Gloria joined us on Good Morning San Diego to talk about the council’s decision.

“This is not over yet,” said Gloria. “The successful completion of the petitionary process for a referendum is not the end of it. We’re going to do our very best to try to implement this in the city, because too many people are not making enough to live here.”

When asked his level of frustration in the situation, Gloria said he feels the same way he thinks many San Diegans do.

“Our system has been set up to have a separate set of rules for the wealthy and the powerful.”

Gloria says he fears that a group of large corporations will pool their money to fight the increase.

“It just confirms the very worst of our politics, that if you have enough money and can hire enough lawyers, lobbyists and consultants then you can get your way.”

Gloria says he thinks a lot of working class people feel as if the system is rigged against them.

“We won’t know who funded this (referendum) effort until January (when the signatures are officially submitted). They say it’s the Small Business Coalition, but I think… It’s going to be major corporations that are publicly traded on Wall Street.”

Gloria was also unhappy with the signature verification process.

“Only the proponents of the petition could be in the room to verify the signatures. Those of us who disagreed with it were not permitted to be in the room.”

Gloria says that while the rules are stacked against those who favor the increase, he wanted to give San Diegans a chance to approve the proposal on its merits.

“My belief, my expectation is that they understand that more people need to make more money in this town in order to live here, and that they’ll approve this in June of 2016.”

Gloria doesn’t buy the rationale given by those fighting the increase.

“They claim that this will harm the economy, that this will cost jobs, that this will do a number of negative things and all the evidence is to the contrary.”

“In the jurisdictions in the states that have raised the minimum wage, they are some of the highest performing economic states in the country.”

Gloria said his original intent was to have a proposal of $13.09 an hour placed on the 2014 ballot, but since the majority of the City Council wanted to adopt it as an ordinance, he supported a smaller proposed increase as part of a “broader compromise to get something done and put money into the pockets of working San Diegans sooner rather than later.”

Gloria said the issue now is to get people to the polls a year and a half from now to support the increase.

“Don’t let these wealthy corporations take this away from us.”

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said recently that if the increase is ultimately passed by voters in 2016 it could create a situation where minimum wage workers could get back pay, which would create another issue unto itself.

“This is another reason why businesses shouldn’t have referendized this,” Gloria said. “Businesses don’t like uncertainty, and they have created this uncertainty for themselves.”

But Gloria also said the issue of retroactive pay could be a non-issue.

“What I do know right now is that those workers who were in line to get an increase on January 1st won’t get it. And they won’t get the one on January 1st, 2016 either.”

Gloria implores voters not to buy the theory that small businesses are behind the opposition to an increase. He says studies show that small businesses with only a few employees tend to pay more than minimum wage because in his opinion retaining those employees is more important than it is, for instance, to a large hotel that has a much larger pool of workers, where any one worker is less important.

He also cites the cost of the opposition that he says belies the idea that small businesses could be behind it.

“Do I believe that local small businesses can afford to hire paid consultants and mail pieces and spend $12 per signature to undo an $11.50 minimum wage? I don’t think most small businesses would do that.”

While Gloria feels that the big corporations he believes are behind the opposition to the minimum wage increase will ‘do and say just about anything,’ he has faith in the electorate.

“I think that (San Diegans) understand very well that despite a rebounding economy, the number of people living in poverty in this city is actually growing. What (minimum wage) works in Stockton or Visalia or Fresno doesn’t work in a high cost environment like San Diego.”

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