April 14, 2016 (San Diego) While some San Diegans might believe the fight for $15 is over, since Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on April 4. This battle, according to fast food workers, home came providers, janitors and security guards said that they need that increase now, not in 2022.
As far as San Diego is concerned, this is also about Proposition I, which is essentially the pay increase approved by City Council in 2014, vetoed by Mayor Kevin Falconer. The Council overrode the veto, and it was forced onto the ballot by business interests at a cost of about half a million dollars.
Council Member Todd Gloria spoke to that issue at the rally in front of the McDonalds across city college. He said, “I was proud to author the City’s Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Days Ordinance.” This was going to give workers though a stepped increase a maximum rate of $11.50 an hour and 5 sick days.
As written, the measure would have done this: The measure would increase minimum wage in the city $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2015. $10.50 in January 2016 and $11.50 in January 2017. By 2019 it would be indexed to inflation.
Moreover, the five-day earned sick leave would allow workers to stay home when ill, or when a family member is ill. If passed, Prop I will come into effect immediately.
Gloria added, “a few years ago they thought a $15 dollar minimum wage was crazy. They thought it was never going to be possible. But what you all did, fast food workers, low wage workers, hotel workers, people from across this country started a movement that now has had a $15 dollar minimum wage in California and in New York.”
He also said, that the work is not done. “San Diego can finish the work of our governor and our legislature by passing Prop I in June. 200,000 of our neighbors could get a raise and
additional sick days three years earlier.” He added, “we will lift thousands of people out of poverty.
This is also part of a national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 and improve working conditions across the country. It is also a fight to establish labor unions, and this is likely the most impactful labor movement since the United Farm Workers were first organized by Cesar Chavez in the 1960s. This includes states that do not have a minimum wage codified into law either.
The march with over 500 San Diegans started at the old NBC building on Third and Broadway and moved up Broadway and then to city, by taking 11th Avenue up and then turning on A Street towards Park. Thought out the march there were chants, “si se puede, yes we can” were interjected with, “what do we want, $15 dollars, when, now?” There were many others, with drums playing as well.
At Chase Bank Marisol Miranda spoke about the negotiations between the Service Workers International and the owners. The contract is being renegotiated, and it also seeks to deal with the issue of sexual harassment and assault of janitors.
Miranda started by stating, “I am a union member, and I clean the offices of companies that have many millions. While they make millions of dollars a year, my coworkers and I make $10.33 an hour. It is not fair since our pay is not enough to pay rent, or food, or anything.”
During contract negotiations they are also fighting for $15 an hour, medical insurance, better benefits and worker protections. “We work at night. We come in at 6:00 and leave work at 2:30 in the morning. The work that we do is physically exhausting, why we need medical insurance.”
The people around broke into a chant of “ya basta, enough is enough.”
Miranda gave the reason for the route. At the former NBC building, Paragon, according to her, “keeps oppressing the workers.” She added that ABM is the largest cleaning contractor and also the company with the most cases of sexual assault. These are the companies that we are negotiating a new contract with. They saw us fighting in downtown. We will continue to fight until those companies grant us what we deserve.”
As we walked down broadway, there were two curious things that happened. One were two young men, who kept snickering and making comments. One of their overheard comments was that the reason they wanted 15, was to get more crack. These kinds of attitudes regarding poor people are common. So that did not quite surprise this reporter. The other was the “Berniemobile,” a Tesla driven by a Bernie Sanders supporter, that drove by honking in support. There were a few Bernie Supporters with Bernie gear. We also know there was at least one Hillary Clinton Supporter. In an election season this should hardly surprise anybody. Oh and Donald Trump did show up in the form of a pinata.
As we walked up 11th, the workers walked by a few fast food places, including a Jack in the Box, They stopped at the Burger King, and there Rosalia Gomez spoke. “We are all united for the same cause. Fifteen and a Union, enough of the injustice, enough of human rights violations, enough of the way we are treated. When one is doing the work of three. Enough of working in kitchens that are at 120 degrees. They turn the air conditioning only when they want to. What do we want? Justice.”
A chant was clear on what workers want. They want those $15 dollars now. We heard it from a few. They cannot wait for 2022. Right now they all are having issues paying the rent, Things are always up, the price of things. The rent in San Diego is expected to go up. So they feel that waiting for 2022, by the time we get there, $15 will not go far enough.
Others who were present were the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, and one of the speakers might surprise you. His name is Jeff Johnson. He is an adjunct professor at City College. and like most workers present, he does not get enough hours and has spent his time living near or at poverty. He pointed out he has a masters degree, and he still is not making ends meet. He is tired of being treated like a cog in the machine. He also wants an increase in the pay of his Teaching Assistants, many of whom work at school, attend classes, and work second jobs.
This is not an uncommon story.
Mickey Kasparian of the Central Labor Council and President of the United Food Workers told workers that the next step was forming that union. What they have so far, is exactly what a union does. It bands together and fights. There is strength in the union.
Edited for clarity and style.