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Rally Calls for Increase in Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour in Santa Barbara

Nonprofit group CAUSE spearheads effort that also is supported by faith leaders, labor unions and women’s groups

A rally held on Monday in Santa Barbara was in support of an increase in the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.
A rally held on Monday in Santa Barbara was in support of an increase in the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

With chants of “Raise the Wage!” echoing through the air at Pershing Park on Monday, dozen of people chose to celebrate their Labor Day by calling for a higher minimum wage throughout the city of Santa Barbara, and are asking for a 2016 ballot measure to help them accomplish just that.

The nonprofit group CAUSE, or the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, was the sponsor of Monday’s event, and several faith leaders, labor unions, women’s groups and others surrounded the stage at Pershing Park calling for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour.

The minimum wage is currently $9 an hour and will increase to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.

Several cities across the country with high costs of living have approved such increases, including San Francisco and Los Angeles in California.

Those cities have approved an increase to $15 an hour, which must be implemented over the next several years.

The minimum wage applies to many in the food services industry, those who watch children, care for the elderly and work to support Santa Barbara’s tourism industry.

Maricela Morales, executive director of CAUSE, spoke to the crowd with her 15-month-old son in her arms, stating that one in four people in Santa Barbara earn minimum wage, which adds up to less than $18,000 per year.

Maricela Morales, executive director of CAUSE, holding her 15-month-old son in her arms, spoke Monday on behalf of an increase in the minimum wage in Santa Barbara to $15 an hour. Click to view larger
Maricela Morales, executive director of CAUSE, holding her 15-month-old son in her arms, spoke Monday on behalf of an increase in the minimum wage in Santa Barbara to $15 an hour. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Morales said she brought her young son to illustrate that 42 percent of people earning the minimum wage have children, and many them are single mothers.

John Grant of UCFW 770, said that the time was right to begin a discussion about wage stagnation and working conditions.  

He called on the city to “share the prosperity.”

“This is our prescription for a healthier and stronger Santa Barbara,” he said.

Two women, who identified themselves only as Gloria and Angelina, spoke to the crowd in Spanish, using Morales as an interpreter.  

Both said they work minimum wage jobs in Santa Barbara and have trouble covering their families basic needs, including rent.  

Both said they shared living spaces since finding a two-bedroom apartment would likely cost them over $2,000 a month, an amount beyond their budgets.

Several faith leaders were also in attendance, and framed the issue as a moral imperative.

“No one should have to choose between caring for a sick child and losing their job,” said the Rev. Julia Hamilton of the Santa Barbara Unitarian Society.

Hamilton said that the speakers before her had talked about trouble covering the basics, “not living the good life,” she said.

By approving the increase, “we can rest assured that we are treating each other fairly,” she said.

Morales told Noozhawk that although a statewide measure has been discussed for next year’s ballot, she and her group’s supporters will be gathering signatures for a citywide measure that would only affect Santa Barbara.  

If enough are gathered, it would be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

When asked about a minimum-wage increase last week, Ken Oplinger of the Chamber of Commerce of the Santa Barbara Region said it was difficult to provide an answer without seeing the ballot measure itself.

Whether the measure would apply to businesses of a certain size, the time frame for implementation, and whether a tip credit for restaurants would be part of the language were all questions that would need to be answered, he said.

Oplinger said he had concerns about a conflicting statewide measure, and also that he wasn’t aware of any effort to determine economic impacts on a community as small as Santa Barbara.

“Would there be increased retail and service costs? Could those increased costs lead to job losses?” he asked, as well as wondering whether social services could be affected.

However, Oplinger said that he was interested in seeing the proposal from CAUSE in the future.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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