SD Council Votes to Increase Minimum Wage

The San Diego City Council approved a hike to the city's minimum wage and a chance to earn five sick days a year at a special Monday evening hearing.

After hearing comments from councilmembers and the public for two and a half hours, the council voted 6-3 along party lines on the measure that bumps the wage to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2015, $10.50 in 2016 and $11.50 in 2017.

That phased-in minimum wage hike represents quite a comedown from an original proposal of $13.09 an hour, and its backers are pointing to the example of a local grocery chain that's already gone to $10 an hour, so far without price increases.

"We are family-owned, and if that means at the end of the day that there's a little bit less for the people who own Jimbo's, so be it,” said “Jimbo’s …Naturally” founder and owner Jim Someck. “But I've found in the past when we make changes like that, somehow the bottom line tends to continue to stay strong.

“Whether that's because we get more efficient, or because the volume of the company goes up -- sales increase, customers get treated better -- it just has a rippling effect. When we do something right, it takes care of itself."

In an interview Monday at Jimbo’s downtown location in the Westfield Horton Plaza mall, Someck said employees at his five locations in San Diego County average between $14 and $15 an hour and receive no tips.

He told NBC 7 that he'll look to keep ahead of not just the state's minimum wage, but whatever might be in effect citywide going forward.

Jimbo’s is giving its higher-paid workers commensurate raises too, in the belief that they help recruit and retain experienced workers – and is just good business.

"I don't think there's any reason to penalize people who have been here and gotten the experience,” Someck explained. “If we're raising the bottom-line people, then we can also take care of the people who have been here for a while."

But critics of the city measure say Jimbo's has a specialized employment structure with a clientele that can afford products at higher price points.

Moe Sadighian, who operates three cafes downtown, said minimums above the state's will pressure other businesses to give raises to their better-paid workers as well.

"Somebody who's making above the minimum wage is expecting the same amount of increment in their wage,” said Sadighian, whose partnership owns Mariscos El Pulpo, Funky Sanchez’s and The Reef in the Gaslamp Quarter.

According to Sadighian, friends with smaller restaurants fear they'll need to shorten work shifts, resort to layoffs and lose customers who balk at increases in menu prices that will have to be made.

“They have six to eight, nine to ten employees and they tell me if this happens, they're not going to make it,” Sadighian related. “No one's going to pay $4 for a taco when average taco is going for $2."

Sadighian believes there’s a chance employees actually will wind up making less following a minimum wage hike: "Let's be very frank about it. They live off their tips. Their tips is where they make the most money. So when (a minimum wage increase) happens, there's less customers. There's less tips."

The minimum wage measure is linked to a proposal calling for five days of "earned sick leave".

Opponents are expected to launch a ballot challenge.

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