Local business owners and executives gathered today to publicly state their support for the San Diego City Council’s minimum wage and earned sick days proposal.
The press conference took place at Intelicare Direct, a customer service call center in Kearny Mesa where CEO and President Gabriel Bristol employs more than 150 local residents. The lowest paid staff members earn $11.15 an hour and would benefit from the proposal for five earned sick days and a $13.09 minimum wage. Bristol emphasized that “paying a living wage results in better attendance and less turn-over (which in turn reduces expenses in hiring and training); it improves morale, performance and productivity.”
“When we improve wages locally it has a “network effect” – the money spent by workers will create the jobs for more money to be spent by more workers,” said Barbara Bry, COO and co-founder of Black Bird Ventures.
“Productive employees maximize profits, and keep expensive turn-over costs low,” explained Lincoln Fish, a local business executive and entrepreneur. Fish has founded several firms in the region and said happy employees result in a consistent, positive experience for his clients. “I find it extraordinary that anybody would design a business and build projections and plan to pay people at a wage that is essentially poverty. You’re creating a structure that basically says it’s ok with me that I’m going to pay people at a wage where they can’t have anything above the tiniest subsistence living, and I find it amazing that anybody would build that model.”
David Gimbel, owner of Voice and Video Rental, cautioned those who oppose the local increase: “Employers who skimp on wages, rob staff of deserved overtime, vacations and sick time and don’t encourage creativity don’t make more, they make less. They have more turn-over, more cheating and less loyalty and they don’t realize how much money they lose every day.”
Bristol explained that an increase in the minimum wage addresses today’s economic realities, where large companies with 100 or more employees currently employ two-thirds of America’s low-wage workforce. Bristol said an increase in the minimum wage would help small businesses because it would mostly be paid by large, profitable companies and would therefore bring money into the local economy. Of the largest employers of low-wage workers (such as Walmart, KFC, and McDonald’s) more than 90% were profitable last year. Bristol concluded by saying, “I’m here speaking today because raising the minimum wage in San Diego is good for business.”
Jeffrey Brown, owner of San Diego-based Tallgrass Pictures, views fair wages and healthy working conditions as “empowering my employees to be excellent.” Brown challenged other local business owners: “join me in paying your people fairly. It’s time to get on the right side of history.” Brown, a self-identified “farm boy from Kansas,” said it has been effective and profitable for Tallgrass to treat employees like family.
Multiple studies have shown that minimum wage increases boost the economy. Within a year after San Jose implemented an increase, the low-wage hospitality and food service industry added 4,000 jobs, and the city added a total of 9,000 new businesses. Even business leaders who had been fierce opponents later said the increase was no big deal for businesses to absorb.
Local economist Alan Gin said that an increase in the minimum wage would benefit the local economy. “It’s been shown that if you increase wages for people on the low end of the income distribution, almost all that money will be spent in the economy. Everybody up and down the income distribution will benefit from that.”
The San Diego measure, proposed by City Council President Todd Gloria, would provide access to five earned sick days per year and a minimum wage of $13.09 per hour citywide. It would be implemented over a three-year period beginning in July 2015.
The measure will mean a significant raise for more than 220,000 San Diegans who are struggling day after day to pay their bills and feed their families. It also will ensure access to earned sick days for 285,000 additional San Diegans who now lose pay if they stay home sick.