Photos: Nadin and Tom Abbott
March 31, 2016 (San Diego) 400 people came to downtown San Diego to celebrate California adopting $15 an hour by 2022. The measure, adopted by both the Assembly and the Senate is on the way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.
The way it will work is that the wage will go from the current $10 an hour to $10.50 by January of 2017. It then will go to $11.00 on January of 2018, and after that it will go up by a dollar every year until it reaches $15 in 2022. Starting in 2024 the wage will go up with the Consumer Price Index.
San Diego has Proposition I on the ballot for June, that while it will not get the wage to $15, it will give workers a faster pace of wage increase initially, and also 5 days of sick leave, if approved.
Reporting San Diego spoke with Lori Saldana, currently running for mayor about this. She, and a cadre of her supporters were among those who marched from Civic Center to the State building on Front Street.
Saldana said “I voted to raise the wage when I was in the legislature.” She added that “the cost of living is increasing and wages are stagnant. So I ma very happy the state of California is leading the way and helping economic justice.”
We also talked to Ita Flint, a union organizer. She told Reporting San Diego “It is a great first step but for fast food workers that I am working with, we need $15 dollars now. We need $15 and a Union.”
This was a theme that we heard. Workers were happy that the legislature was about to pass this. When the vote was announced as they marched around Third and Broadway, they cheered. They also took over the intersection partly after a person in a car was honking, and it was not in support. While in the intersection we heard from Jose Gonzalez, who once again spoke from the heart about the job security guards do.
As a security officer, since his pay is so low, he at times is left with a negative balance in his bank account. He addressed the contract that the Service Employee International Union is currently negotiating. He said “The contract in security and janitorial industries are broken.” He added, “low wages and wage theft are common.” He also said that the industry is full of contractors that do operate with an underground economy. He insisted that these laws need to have strong labor protections, to ensure that those these laws are supposed to benefit, do benefit in the end.
He did acknowledged that once passed, and signed by the Governor, this will make California the state with the highest minimum wage pay in the country. That said the fight is not just for higher wages, but also for stronger worker protections, and a voice for workers in the workplace.
Silvestre Garcia, a janitor who works in the La Jolla area spoke next. He said that over the last six years his wage has remained at $10.33 an hour. This is far from enough and to make ends meet, he and his family have to work at multiple places. He added, “we deserve more, and we are not ok with just making the minimum wage.” He then exhorted the rest of the marches, with a yes we can.
Then the march moved down to Broadway and up to 1st Avenue, and up to A street. The route then took them west, towards Front and they marched to the front of the State building. There the group stopped.
Gabriel Romo spoke of his struggles as a home care worker. He has been a home care worker for the last three years. He is also a member of the United Domestics Workers (UDW). He is also allowing his aunt to remain in a safe environment and stay at home. That said, the pay is so low that he can barely make ends meet.
He is designated as an In Home Supporter Services (IHSS) provider by the state of California. Romo said, “It is a great start, now that the Governor has agreed to raise the wage to $15 dollars an hour, but we need relief now.” He added that often times he couldn’t pay his electric bill, or his water bill. He has to stagger the payments in order to make it, and to keep them going.
Rosela Gomez spoke in front of the state building. There she said that “today is a big day for all those who make less than $15 dollars an hour.” She also encouraged San Diegans to come out on June 7 and vote for Proposition I. She added, that she needs the $15 dollars since she needs to pay the rent and buy clothes for her sons. She also wants to send them to college. She added that her sons cannot attend college right now, since they need to work to make ends meet.
One of the organizers recognized the day also for what it is, that is today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday. He was a Mexican-American who organized workers, field hands. Chavez recognized that the way to power was a union. His work is remembered today as part of the background. So is that of Dolores Huerta. One of the attendees, screamed “long live Dolores Huerta.”
While the march was relatively short, there was a willingness to continue fighting for a better day for labor. The other part of the theme was the fact that workers belief 2022 will be a slow way to get to $15.00
We would also be remiss not to mention that State Senator Marty Block staff was also present.