By Doug Porter
Tuesday, July 22, was a remarkable day for San Diego. Starting with an early morning prayer vigil at San Diego City Hall in support of a higher minimum wage and ending with hundreds of Escondido residents calling for a humanitarian response to the border refugee crisis, people stood up for causes they believed in.
At noontime a broad spectrum of supporters of organized labor rallied in Mission Valley, vowing to support workers for Food-4-Less should they go on strike. And in the afternoon environmental activists testified before the city council, urging Mayor Kevin Faulconer to move ahead with a review process needed to consider an ordinance curtailing the use of plastic shopping bags.
People chose to make a stand on issues that were important to them. They faced off against institutional and political hostility, along with a corporate media all-too-willing to give a platform to those willing to spew ridicule (the UT’s Greenhut) and venomous language (Escondido’s nativists). They stood up and said “we’re not going to take it any more” (UFCW’s Kasparian). They testified that now is the time to protect the environment (representatives of Coastkeeper, Surfrider and the Sierra Club).
It was a great day to be an American. It was a great day to be an activist.
City Hall Vigil for the Minimum Wage
The involvement of faith leaders local efforts to increase the minimum wage has been a real asset for that cause. Faced with a coordinated storm of negative (or ‘concerned’) press on the issue, advocates for low wage workers seized the media spotlight yesterday with a morning prayer vigil outside city hall.
SDSU student Biviana Lagunas, who works part time, gave testimony about the stresses of a low paying job on her family.
A typical day for Lagunas starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends at midnight. She works seven hours, attends class for five hours and then goes home where she’ll work on homework until she goes to sleep.
She believes an increase in the city’s minimum wage would really help her family. Describing how her mother struggles brings her to tears.
“I don’t think my mother working full time should live in poverty,” said Lagunas.
The city council is slated to affirm an earlier vote on a measure increasing local minimum wages on July 28th. Mayor Kevin Faulconer will then be faced with choice of vetoing the ordinance or letting it pass.
“We urge Mayor Faulconer to sign the measure,” said Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice. “The American Dream is to reward hard work and initiative with the opportunity to take care of your family. By signing this measure, Mayor Faulconer will literally enable hundreds of thousands of working San Diegans to afford child care and to not be penalized for staying home from work if they are ill or have a sick child.”
Following the vigil, a delegation comprised of three workers and four clergy members went up to Mayor Faulconer’s office. They brought along roses and bread – symbolic gifts – to ask tthe Mayor to sign the minimum wage increase. Additionally, they presented a faux check representative of minimum wages of of $1560 per month with a message on the memo line, “Can you live on this?”
Representatives of the group met with a senior advisor for Kevin Faulconer, and managed to schedule a meeting for the group with the Mayor to take place on Friday.
Solidarity Rally for UFCW Workers in Mission Valley
Faced with the increasing likelihood of a strike against Food 4 Less stores, local 135 of the United Foodservice and Commercial Workers (UFCW) staged a solidarity rally yesterday at the headquarters of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Labor Council leader Richard Barrera, along with representatives of a dozen or so other groups made it perfectly clear that any UFCW job action would have the full backing of organized labor.
Despite having successfully negotiated agreements with Ralphs, Stater Bros, Vons and Albertsons stores earlier this year, the UFCW has run into a brick wall with management at Food 4 Less.
Owned by the same corporate conglomerate as Ralph’s stores, Food 4 Less stores gross an average of $750,000 weekly, 50% more than the stores who’ve already signed union contracts.
The company reported profits of $500 million for the first quarter of 2014.
The UFCW has been presented with company demands aimed at reducing employee hours and healthcare benefits.
Should a strike occur, 1000 employees at 8 locations in San Diego County will be affected. One thing that distinguishes UFCW workers at Food 4 Less stores is that those employees are 80% Latino. They also just happen to be paid less than employees at stores who have already signed contracts. For many of the rank and file workers attending yesterday’s rally, this made the company’s intransigence even more of a personal affront.
Here’s a snippet from UT San Diego:
The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, representing more than 200,000 workers in every field from electrical work to cab driving, held a news conference in Mission Valley on Tuesday to publicly announce its support for a strike should one become necessary.
“Our question for Kroger is, what is it about Food 4 Less workers that makes you feel like you can extract more from people who are doing the same work as the workers at other supermarket chains where you settled on a contract?” asked council CEO Richard Barrera. “If our Food 4 Less workers need to go out on strike to fight for their rights and for a decent contract, the entire labor movement in the community of San Diego, we’re going to be right there with you.”
City Councilwoman Marti Emerald also attended, promising to stand on the picket line if employees go on strike.
Environmental Activists Turn Up the Heat on Plastic Bag Ban
Representatives from Surfrider, Coastkeeper and the Sierra Club came before the City Council yesterday to urge Mayor Kevin Faulconer to take action on an ordinance restricting single use plastic bags.
San Diego’s proposed ordinance would ban plastic bags at most stores, mandate a 10-cent-per-bag charge for paper bags and require shopkeepers to maintain records for three years.
Plastic bags could still be used for meat, produce and prescription medications.
The restrictions would not apply to charities, large non-food retailers like Home Depot or government food providers.
The Mayor is reportedly waiting to proceed on an environmental review necessary for the consideration of the ordinance until such time legislation is voted on in Sacramento.
The Legislature is considering a statewide ban on plastic bags, though previous attempts have failed.
Roger Kube, chairman of the local Surfrider chapter, said it had been nine months since a City Council committee asked the mayor’s office to conduct an environmental review.
“I don’t remember any caveat that we’re going to wait for the state, and we feel we should not wait for the state,” Kube said. “Regardless of what the state is doing, it’s time for San Diego to act, and the time is now.”
Over 100 cities in California have already passed rules limiting the use of plastic shopping bags.
An October, 2103 report by the Equinox center indicated a local ordinance would reduce the number of bags used in San Diego by 70%. They found that about 500 million of the bags are used in San Diego annually, and 350 million less would be used if the proposed ordinance were law.
Activists Shame Escondido Planning Commission
Last month a Escondido Planning Commission meeting concerning a proposed shelter for migrant children became a flashpoint in what has ballooned into a nationwide showdown. The objections to the proposed shelter went way beyond the usual NIMBYism expected at such meetings.
The local nativist set packed the meeting with residents ranting about imagined threats of disease and crime. This wasn’t about land use. It was about racism, pure and simple.
Last night the Escondido Commission had a chance to hear from citizens urging humanitarian consideration for the border refugees as it met to give reconsideration to its earlier decision.
From UT-San Diego:
Last month, hundreds of people attended the meeting, most of them opposing the shelter. But Tuesday’s crowd was made up predominantly of Latino residents and supporters of the shelter.
More than 50 people spoke in favor and about 15 against it.
“I strongly believe that a strong nation is guided by its principles, especially towards children,” said Escondido resident John Valdez.
The Planning Commission voted 6-0, with one commissioner absent, against the proposal without much comment.
After the vote, many in the audience shouted, “Shame! Shame on you!”
Hundreds of people marched from the Escondido Swap Meet location to City Hall and rallied outside, indicating their support for the shelter. They carried signs with slogans like “Protect the Children” and “Compassion is an American Value.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is considering a lawsuit on the matter. Even though the city’s population is 48% Latino, the Planning Commission is all-white.
A Win for Ocean Beach Activists?
Ocean Beach residents have been organizing for weeks now, following an attempt by the City Planning Commission to revise their Community Plan allowing in a way allowing builders to utilize an increased amount of space on lots.
In communities without the constraints of a 30 foot high limitation on building, this isn’t such a big deal. For folks in Ocean Beach, the revisions inspired nightmares of the sort of cheek-by-jowl development common in Mission Beach.
The Community Plan in question was supported by virtually every representative organization in Ocean Beach and opposed by a small group of developers.
Supporters gathered over 3500 signatures in support of the plan. Opponents sent letters out to property owners saying their rights were endangered.
From the UT-San Diego article:
The leader of the property owners, David Stebbins, said this week that Ruscitti and a small group of anti-development zealots have frightened residents with “misinformation” and exaggerated claims about the dangers of allowing isolated exceptions to density restrictions.
Stebbins said the more neutral language endorsed by the Planning Commission would allow the city to consider allowing projects that improve Ocean Beach without threatening its character. He said that’s what the “silent majority” of residents want.
“Ninety percent of OB residents love seeing shacks torn down and replaced,” he said.
A City Council hearing on the plan is scheduled for July 29th. Residents are hopeful that the original intent of the plan will remain intact. Yesterday Mayor Kevin Faulconer showed his hand, indicating that he’ll support the plan as it was originally written.
OBRag/SDFP editor Frank Gormlie, who’s been very involved in the community effort, was cautiously optimistic, saying “This is definitely a good sign; however, it’s the City Council that votes on the approval of the Plan.”
On This Day: 1892- Anarchist Alexander Berkman shot and stabbed but failed to kill steel magnate Henry Clay Frick in an effort to avenge the Homestead massacre 18 days earlier, in which nine strikers were killed. Berkman also tried to use what was, in effect, a suicide bomb, but it didn’t detonate 1950 – “The Gene Autry Show” premiered on CBS-TV. 1984 – Miss America, Vanessa Williams, turned in her crown after it had been discovered that nude photos of her had appeared in “Penthouse” magazine.
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