Late Tuesday night the San Diego City Council decided that they had no alternative but to accept Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposal and impose contracts on police officers and blue-collar workers mandating a 6% salary decrease.
It was with great disappointment that none of the city council representatives, in particular Ben Hueso and Tony Young, stood up and fought for the workers right to earn a living wage. Hueso and Young both represent low income districts, district 8 median income is $33,000, district 4 $40,000, home to many of the city’s blue-collar workers, who will feel the impact by this pay reduction.
With any city budget employee salaries are the largest expense and whenever a budget crunch comes the first thing to come under scrutiny is employee wages. But employee wages are much more than just 80% of a city budget, it is about the people, the families, and the community.
The City of San Diego is one of the largest, if not the largest, employer and salaries are not just about balancing a budget but about people being able to afford a decent home, send their children to college, take a vacation. For the Hispanic community a decent living is about changing a culture, it is about empowerment.
When you walk through district 8, Ben Hueso’s district, or Tony Young’s district 4, the problems are visible, and at the root is economics. Gangs, drugs, low income housing, slums, quality of life issues, these problems manifest themselves in these low-income neighborhoods.
For the Hispanic communities which have a history of being on the low-end of the economic scale the path to equality and out of the vicious cycle of poverty and all the related issues associated with poverty is through economic growth, through a living wage. Council members Hueso and Young both effectively undercut this growth by imposing a 6% salary reduction that will only fuel the pangs of poverty.
For a family with a median income of $33,000 this equates to $2000 dollar a year pay cut. On top of this you add in the other cuts already agreed to in pensions benefits, and health care, coupled with the rise in cost to gas and electric, the rise in cost of water, the rise in state taxes and all the associated cost increases, the low-income are being squeezed into a corner of which they will never come out of. Hopes of home ownership, a college education, an opportunity to escape the bonds of poverty gone.
For the low-income, for their districts, it would have shown true leadership if these two council members, Hueso and Young, would have stood up and fought for their communities, and their people, but that would have taken courage which apparently is sorely lacking from these two city councilmen.