The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. That amount, or something less for exempted positions, is what 3.3 million Americans earn per her hour across the country. Many believe it is time to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage, or a wage that raises a person out of poverty.
San Antonio, despite an unemployment rate of less than 5 percent has 20 percent of its residents living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. Last weekend, 300 community stakeholders met at Sacred Heart Catholic Church Civic Center to show support for raising wages in the city.
COPS/Metro Alliance, like a push they made in the 1990s, wants the wages for the public sector employees raised. They hope to push those wages up $11.47 an hour to $14.91 an hour. They also want contracted workers for the county to be covered by any change. They also ask that tax abatements or grants given to the for-profit industry would include a guarantee they pay the new wage.
Last year, the Obama Administration's attempt to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour failed. A Congressional Budget Office report found that the hike would have raised a million people out of poverty, increased pay for the rest, but likely cost half a million jobs by 2016. Despite the failure of Washington to act several states and cities are acting on wage increases.
In 2014 four states--Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota--raised their minimum wages, joining 19 other states, according to the National Conference on State Governments. In 2015, nine states will raise their minimum wages.
While Seattle got all the press when it raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than 100 cities have raised their minimum wages. 10 city and county governments raised them in the last year. From San Francisco to Las Cruces, New Mexico, cities are acting when federal and state legislators fail to.
Will a county and city worker bump give rise to a bigger movement in San Antonio?
- Fr. Mike DeGerlami, parish priest at St. Timothy's Catholic Church.
- Mike Phillips, one leader for COPS/Metro Alliance.
- Mike Villarreal, former district 123 Texas House representative and mayoral candidate.