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Politics

San Diego Workers Join Nationwide Minimum Wage Protest

Protesters gathered in downtown San Diego to demand a higher minimum wage, Nov. 10, 2015.
Katie Schoolov
Protesters gathered in downtown San Diego to demand a higher minimum wage, Nov. 10, 2015.

A group of activists staged a series of strikes and rallies around San Diego on Tuesday to advocate for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

It was part of a nationwide protest to draw attention to efforts to raise the minimum wage and was timed to happen exactly one year before the 2016 presidential election. Walkouts were planned for 270 cities nationwide, according to the Service Employees International Union.

“Workers began striking at 5 a.m. at McDonald's and it has moved on from there,” said Crystal Page with SEIU.

A coalition of at least 30 union and social justice organizations sponsored events around California. Its efforts coincided with protests in several major cities, including New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

In San Diego, about 1,000 protesters converged at City Hall for a rally in the evening, where speakers included Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, both San Diego Democrats.

One of the protesters, Cymone Fillmore, 27, is the sole breadwinner for her family of three. She said she and other workers deserve more than $9 an hour.

"I'm a parent," Fillmore said. "I'm a cashier. I do anything and everything my daughter requires me to do. I work twice as hard."

Raising the federal minimum wage beyond $7.25 an hour became a campaign issue in the last presidential election. Several cities and states already have a higher minimum wage, including California, where the hourly minimum wage is $9 and is set to rise to $10 in January.

An effort to raise it to $13 an hour recently stalled in the Assembly.

In San Diego, the City Council last year approved a minimum wage increase, but opponents gathered signatures to put it on the June 2016 ballot. If approved, workers would see their wages rise to $11.50 an hour.

At the state level, two different SEIU-affiliated groups are working to get minimum wage measures on the California ballot next year.

The union's state council began circulating a petition this month for a proposition that would raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and require six paid sick days a year. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West is working to qualify a proposition that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

New York has a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Berkeley is considering an ordinance that would gradually increase the city’s hourly minimum wage to $19.