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Council President Todd Gloria, the biggest cheerleader in the push to raise the city’s minimum wage, says delaying a decision on the issue will deprive 172,000 San Diegans of a raise.

He drove that point home on Twitter again last week:

[fold-tweet url=”https://twitter.com/ToddGloria/status/530520474816905216″]

Gloria’s thrown out that same number before. In fact, he’s used the 172,000 figure for months to emphasize the impact of the proposed wage hike – and we found it’s a lot more complicated than Gloria’s tweet implies:

There’s an important takeaway here: It’s not as if all these workers won’t receive any raise if San Diego’s minimum wage hike is overturned by a referendum.

In fact, tens of thousands of San Diegans will make more money even if voters reject a minimum wage hike in a couple years. And that 172,000 figure is just an estimate based on county trends produced by labor experts at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment – not a definitive count.

The city’s minimum wage increase, which was passed by the City Council but was put on pause when opponents forced the issue onto the 2016 ballot, would’ve boosted the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour over three years.

State increases will hike the minimum wage for many of the same workers who would’ve been affected by the city measure. The state minimum wage rose to $9 an hour this summer and it’ll hit $10 an hour in January 2016.

State agencies haven’t publicly projected how many San Diego workers might benefit from those two increases. These are the figures I dug up:

Last year, the Sacramento Bee estimated 1.5 million full-time workers in the state would receive a pay hike as a result of that increase, or 14 percent of the state’s full-time workforce.

To put that in perspective, 14 percent of the city of San Diego’s total workforce – which includes part-time workers – would amount to roughly 94,000 workers.

At least some of the workers baked into the 172,000 number Gloria cited will still get pay increases courtesy of the state.

The 172,000 figure also includes many workers who make more than the minimum wage. The UC Berkeley team expects 20,000 to 58,000 San Diegans who’d already be making at least the minimum wage as of 2017 would get raises if the San Diego minimum-wage measure prevails.

But it’s not clear how that minimum-wage hike would kick in if voters support it in 2016. That could presumably affect the 172,000 estimate too.

The city attorney’s office is still looking into how the wage increases should take effect if voters OK them. For example, they’ll need to decide whether the increases should be gradual or if the minimum wage should simply hit $11.50 an hour come January 2017. A spokesman said city attorneys expect to deliver their recommendations by the end of the year.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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