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San Diego elected officials override mayor's minimum wage veto

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The San Diego City Council on Monday overrode the mayor's veto of a bill to gradually raise the minimum wage in California's second-largest city to $11.50 an hour by January 2017, enacting a measure aimed mostly at helping low-paid restaurant and retail workers.

The council originally approved the Democratic-backed ordinance on a party-line vote of 6-3 on July 28, and Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer vetoed it on Aug. 8, saying it would force businesses out of San Diego.

In addition to raising the city's minimum wage above California's statewide floor starting next year, the measure would allow an estimated 279,000 workers who lack paid sick leave to earn up to five days of that benefit.

San Diego is among several cities across the country joining a push by Democrats and labor groups to increase the minimum wage at the local and state level, as Republicans in Congress oppose raising the current federal wage floor of $7.25 an hour.

"When 38 percent of the people of this city do not earn enough to make ends meet, something must be done," City Council President Todd Gloria said on Monday at the meeting where he and his Democratic colleagues voted 6-2 to enact the wage hike over the mayor's veto.

A representative for the mayor could not immediately be reached for comment.

Under San Diego's measure, the city's hourly minimum will rise to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2015, $10.50 the following year and $11.50 by January 2017. Further increases will be indexed to inflation, beginning in January 2019.

The statewide hourly minimum wage rose last month to $9 from $8, and is scheduled to climb to $10 next July.

"When this takes effect in January, the minimum wage will only be 75 cents higher than the state minimum wage," City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said. "This is a reasonable, common sense measure that will help our economy."

Opponents say the measure would place an undue burden on businesses still struggling to rebound from California's economic slump, forcing many companies to lay off workers and pass on their higher labor costs to consumers.

The wage increase was opposed by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce has already promised to try to roll back the wage increase through a referendum. It has about 30 days to gather the 34,000 signatures needed to place its challenge on the ballot.

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