June 10, 2014 (San Diego) Rosa Lopez is typical of many of our low wage workers in San Diego. She is not a teenager, but a mother of three. She works a full time job, forty hours a week, she also works during the weekend, and at times at the Union Office she belongs to. She also “makes Tamales to help make ends meet.”
Her children are attending College, and also have loans to be able to attend. As she told the Monitor, “I am a single mother and I cannot afford to send them to school.” She added that it is a hard life. About San Diego, Lopez said that “this is a beautiful city, and I love living here. Ever since I got here, I have never thought about moving, but the cost of living is very high.”
“I live here, I work here, I consume here.” She is hopeful that this will be able this increase in the minimum wage will be able to pass. She has a lot of friends who work in the city, who make $8,38 \hour and “are single mothers with three children,” who live with relatives. There is no privacy for their children, (or themselves.) She also emphasized that public services, such as electricity and water are very expensive, but “rent in particular is very expensive in San Diego.”
Lopez also said that if the minimum wage goes up, then they will be able to go out to a restaurant and spend money in the city. This is an argument by economists, that the pent up demand will lead to more spending by these workers, and not for people to hoard that cash in savings or other accounts that keep it away from the economy.
According to the Center for Policy Initiatives:
“Under the measure proposed by Council President Todd Gloria, an estimated 285,000 employees in San Diego will gain access to earned sick time.1 The measure will also create a local minimum wage, which will be phased in over three years, reaching $13.09 in 2017. More than 220,000 local employees will get a raise once the minimum wage is fully implemented, averaging $3,000 each per year in additional earnings. In total, the minimum wage provisions will put more than $660 million annually into the pockets of San Diego’s low-income families.”
This increased money will go to the general economy and would allow workers to have that money to spend on amenities or pent up demand for needed items, that Lopez spoke off.
Moreover, according to the same report:
“Contrary to the myth that minimum-wage workers are mostly teenagers, more than half (53%) of those who will receive the increased wage in San Diego will be age 30 or older. A third (33.6%) of affected employees support children on their wages. These are employees who desperately need wages high enough to pay their bills, not wages that push them into reliance on public programs like food stamps while working full-time.”
This initiative setup is not just including a raise in the minimum wage, which will come in three stages ending in 2017 with a $13.08 \hour wage, but it will also add five days of earned sick leave.
According to Council Member Marti Emerald The Center for Policies Initiatives found that “in excess of 440,000 working men and women in this County have to give up pay if they have to take a day off if they are sick or they have to take care of a sick child.” Given that many of these workers also work in the food service industry where they put themselves, their co-workers, and their customers at risk, earned sick leave is a good policy initiative.
The Council is working to address these two problems, and tomorrow the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee will have it’s second hearing starting at nine in the morning on the 12th floor.
Emerald told the Monitor today that she will press the Committee to keep these two policy actions internal to the City Council, and not pass it on to the voters. She believes the votes in the Council are there to not just advance these two policy initiatives, but overcome any potential veto by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
It is important to say that the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Tax Payer Association have also released a policy document discussing the effects of raising the minimum wage. In it they argue that most of the problems are lack of workforce development, as well as globalization and automatization leading to the loss of low wage jobs.
They also do write that:
“Some businesses may benefit from increased purchasing power of low-wage workers. However, local businesses expressed several concerns including pressure to increase prices and reduce payroll. Harry Schwartz, co-owner of Ace Hardware Downtown, is concerned that the higher prices will push even more customers to online retailers. He is also reconsidering expansion plans in the City of San Diego.”
The study goes far afield, including issues of homelessness to try to make the point that a wage increase has no effect in the quality of life of low wage families. It also repeats the often told story that many of these workers are teenagers in their first job. Other studies have shown this not to be the case.