Already gearing up for a minimum wage ballot ordinance in Sacramento and Davis, the proponents of the ordinance, including the Central Labor Council which is backing a potential measure next year, believe they now have critical evidence of strong community support.
Sacramento Business Journal reported on Tuesday that a poll, commissioned by the same groups pushing the minimum wage hike locally, shows strong support for a wage hike to $13.50 an hour and even solid support for the $15 an hour that groups favor and cities like Seattle have already imposed.
According to the article, the San Francisco polling firm, David Binder Research, that has conducted a number of polls locally, found that in their survey of 500 Sacramento voters, “70 percent of Sacramento voters would support a measure to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13.50 an hour. And 58 percent of voters said they would approve raising Sacramento’s wage floor to $15 an hour over three years.”
The article notes, “Local labor officials, who did not pay for the survey, say they are encouraged by the results. They want the Sacramento City Council to enact a first-of-its-kind minimum wage law for the city this year. If a local law is not adopted, the unions say they will push for a voter initiative on the fall 2016 ballot.”
They write, “David Binder Research has conducted polls on other hot-button issues in Sacramento like a downtown arena and strong mayor initiative. The survey was commissioned by Organize Sacramento, a community-organizing group, and the faith-based Area Congregations Together and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.”
The poll was conducted from March 24 through March 29, and had a 4.4 percent margin of error. The poll asked voters whether they would support a measure that would “require employers to pay a minimum wage of $15 for work performed in the city of Sacramento” and adjusted for inflation thereafter.
If the respondent said they would not support a $15 an hour wage, they were asked if they would support an increase to $13.50, to which 70 percent supported and 25 percent opposed.
While the nature of the poll suggests skepticism about the magnitude of the support for a wage hike, polling has consistently showed nationally that voters strongly support minimum wage increases. For example, a March 2014 PEW Poll found 73 percent of all Americans supported a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.
The Business Journal noted that other polling showed the business community is overwhelmingly opposed to a minimum wage increases. This was according to surveys by the Sacramento Metro Chamber and the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
Back in February, the Business Journal talked to Bobby Coyote of Davis-based Dos Coyotes, who told them that “a new wage law in Sacramento would compound rising expenses around health care and workers’ compensation, he said, forcing restaurants to raise prices on consumers while cutting server jobs. These changes would diminish the dining experience and could lead to less people eating out, he said.”
“We need to keep things balanced,” Mr. Coyote said. “He emphasized his belief that all workers should receive ‘fair wages’ but said he hopes city leaders consider the implications.”
The issue of a $15 minimum wage was raised by local groups last spring, but ultimately shelved due to lack of clear community support.
Outgoing executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council Bill Camp revived the prospect last December.
The state came close in June to passing a $13 an hour minimum wage, only to have it die unexpectedly in the Assembly labor committee.
Senate Bill 935, authored by Senator Mark Leno, would have raised the minimum wage in three steps, starting at $11 an hour in 2015 and increasing an additional $1 per hour in both 2016 and 2017. Beginning in 2018, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually to the rate of inflation. SB 935 was co-sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of California and SEIU (Service Employees International Union) California State Council.
“Increasing the minimum wage is critically important to millions of hard-working Californians and their families who live in poverty and are forced to rely on the state’s social safety net programs despite being employed full time,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco who sponsored the legislation along with Assemblymember Luis Alejo. “By giving low-income workers the pay and respect they deserve, we will also address the growing inequality within our communities, which is a roadblock to economic recovery and a drain on already limited taxpayer resources.”
Mr. Camp told the journal that they would attempt to gather signatures to qualify for the ballots of Sacramento and Davis.
The law would contain three provisions. First, it would be phased in to avoid disrupting local economies. Second, “No population could be excluded from earning $15, including youth and nonprofits.” Third, “The new minimum wage would include an automatic cost-of-living increase.”
Earlier this year, an effort spearheaded by a group called Raise the Wage Davis fell short of putting a similar $15 per hour minimum wage on the ballot for this November’s ballot.
In April, the group conceded that they would fall short.
“It’s our hope to collect 7000 signatures by May 1. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’re going to make that deadline,” Bernie Goldsmith acknowledged to council in April. “Our efforts started around a kitchen table on January 11; since then, we’ve made a bit of a splash locally.”
“It is our hope to raise the minimum wage in Davis to a living wage,” he said. “I’m sure that many of you have read the Enterprise and it has had some opinions about our efforts. The Chamber of Commerce and local businesses have had some opinions about our attempts to engage the community.”
“One of the goals of this campaign was to start a public debate on what it would mean in this town to say as a moral proposition that no one who works full-time here should have to live in poverty,” he continued. “To contribute to this discussion, we’ve discussed engaging several academics, economists to produce a report on what a $15 minimum wage would look like to the economy of Davis, to the everyday worker of Davis, to the businesses of Davis. What the impacts would be.”
The proposal generated immediate pushback from the Davis Enterprise as well as some in the business community.
In an editorial, the Enterprise argued that “Davis businesses should not be saddled with a $15 minimum wage,” and that “good intentions don’t fund the payroll.”
The Enterprise noted, “If it lands on the June ballot, and gets approved by Davis voters, the measure would set the minimum wage at $11 an hour in January 2015, $13 in July 2015 and $15 at the start of 2016. At that point, the minimum wage would be 50 percent higher than the state rate of $10, with further increases linked to inflation.”
The Enterprise did note, “We oppose a city-by-city approach to the minimum wage. The state is the appropriate place for this change to occur.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting