San Diego's lowest paid workers could get a 60 percent pay raise in just four years, to more than $13 an hour, if a new proposed ballot measure comes to pass.
Most workers who currently have no benefits would also qualify for five days of paid sick leave a year under the measure, introduced Wednesday by two San Diego City Councilmembers.
Supporters say thousands of San Diego families can't make a decent living at the current minimum wage of $8 an hour. They want it increased by a dollar per year to $13.09 by July 2017.
San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, who introduced the measure along with Sherri Lightner, hopes to put the issue before city voters this November but says he’s open to compromise on his proposal.
“We'll amend as necessary and ultimately put forward something I think the vast majority of San Diegans will not only support but embrace, and be glad we did it," Gloria told reporters at a City Hall news conference.
Workers, business owners and customers will help shape the measure at a city council hearing on the proposed ballot measure next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
The Center for Policy Initiatives and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development say wage increases will put more than $500 million into the pockets of San Diego’s lowest income working families, who will spend most of that money at local stores and businesses.
But some local small business owners say such a big jump in salary and benefits could put them out of business.
Ann Kinner, who owns Seabreeze Books and Charts on Scott Street in Point Loma, says raising the minimum wage and adding sick days for workers will be a job killer at her store.
Kinner says she can’t increase her revenue by raising prices on items like books and nautical maps, which already have a set, pre-printed price from the publisher.
"You increase my costs by a dollar, two dollars, four dollars an hour, for whomever it is that I have to hire, I can't increase that price (on my inventory),” Kinner told NBC 7. “I can reduce it, but I can't increase it.”
She says any pay hike will also increase her taxes and workers’ compensation insurance costs, and adding sick leave will increase paperwork for some businesses.
"My payroll processing company's going to have to do more work,” says Kinner. ”They're going to charge me more money to do my payroll for me. Where's it all going to end?"
But Harry Schwartz, who owns downtown's ACE Hardware, has a different perspective and hopes for a compromise. That could mean smaller pay hikes spread over more time.
"Small businesses aren't opposed to minimum wage increases,” Schwartz told NBC 7. “We just need to make sure it can work for the small business, as well as the hourly employee."