A Fair Price? The minimum wage debate hits San Diego County.

Dylan Pheifer, Staff Reporter

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A nonunion minimum wage laborer who works on the road for A.V. Builder makes $10 an hour. If he or she works every single day of the year, with a 30-hour work week, he or she will stand to make 14,000 a year. So how does that compare to the cost of living in San Diego? According to demographics from City-data.com, median contract rent for apartments in 2009 was $1,157 a month for apartments and $1,575 for those living in the more expensive areas in the city. Annually, if the most dedicated laborer worked every day of the year, he still would barely have any money after paying the cost of living, spending $13,883 annually for an apartment, and $18,900 annually to live in a good neighborhood. There is no one who can work that much hard labor every day, and it is not even enough of a wage to do so.

On Thursday, Sept. 4, a rally was held on University Avenue to protest the minimum wage. Political officials including Lorena Gonzalez, assemblywoman for District 9; Marti Emerald, city council woman for City Heights; Richard Berrera, the head of the San Diego Labor Council, along with members of the clergy, made appearances at the protest. Protesters marched from McDonalds, to Jack-in-the-Box, to Burger King, chanting, “I believe we will win,” as they moved down towards the I-15 freeway overpass. Upon reaching this point, a political group, led by Nancy Cruz, chose to intentionally block traffic in order to bring attention to the issue.

Robert Nothoff, a staff employee for the San Diego Labor Council said people aren’t succeeding for lack of hard work. Nothoff points to statistics from the University of California Berkley Center on Wage & Employment Dynamics, only 5 percent of minimum wage workers in San Diego are teens; the remaining 85 percent are between the ages of 20 and 55. Nothoff seeks to hinder the petition campaign to repeal the city council’s plan to raise the minimum wage.

Nancy Cruz, the activist behind the controversy, did not wish to speak to members of the press herself; however, a staff member named Carmen Villa said, “People are protesting because they are struggling.” She is working three jobs—at Burger King, as a nanny and creating artwork. Despite this, she is missing payments and is having trouble providing for her family. When asked about her decision to break the law, Villa said, “It was all of ours idea.” Villa also said the police were very friendly, respectful and helpful to the protesters; however, once the law was broken, all 10 staff workers, and the clergy with them were processed at the university police station. The interaction began with the protesters chanting, and when police gave a first order to disperse, they didn’t move. The police then gave a second order, after which arrests were made. The protesters have a court date on Nov. 5.   The minimum wage increase was proposed by city council, headed by Todd Gloria, a few months ago. Mayor Faulconer had vetoed the first proposal to raise the minimum wage, which the city council then passed anyway, mobilizing conservative groups to obtain signatures to stop the wage increase.