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Protecting service workers from wage theft

 March 20, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, March 20th.

A week of action begins to help service-industry workers at risk of wage theft.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines.

The median price for a single-family home in the County is approaching 1-million dollars.

A monthly report from the California Association of Realtors says February’s median price jumped to 980-thousand dollars.

That’s an increase of 55-thousand dollars from the prior month.

Year-to-year, the association says the increase is nearly 100-thousand dollars.

According to the report, the County’s median price is significantly higher than the state average of 806-thousand dollars – a price that’s still out of reach for many buyers.

San Diego’s gas prices are also rising.

Gas Buddy dot-com – an online tool that tracks prices – says local prices are now the highest they’ve been since early December.

The average price for a gallon of regular reached 4-95 yesterday (Tuesday).

An analyst for Gas Buddy says the rise in prices is expected to slow in the next few weeks as higher production boosts supply.

San Diego drivers are paying much higher gas costs than the national average, which according to Triple-A, currently sits at 3-48 a gallon.

The American Civil Liberties Union is urging caution to those traveling to Texas.

The San Diego and Imperial Counties chapter joined several other ACLU chapters in issuing the guidance.

It followed a Supreme Court decision that allows Texas to enforce a new law that allows local police agencies to detain people suspected of being non citizens.

Punishments can range from jail time to deportation.

The new Texas law was passed in response to an increase in asylum seekers and other migrants attempting to enter the U-S through the Southern border.

From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

The county is honoring the late labor rights leader Cesar Chavez by kicking off a week of action.

KPBS reporter Alexander Nguyen says county and state officials gave an update yesterday on the progress against wage theft in the past year.

“I knew I had the responsibility to hold this company accountable for its actions. they promised.” 

Choking back tears, her voice trembling, Sandra Cruz described her ordeal with wage theft.

It was only a few hundred dollars, but Cruz said that money can make a difference in workers’ lives.

“But they don't know whether that day when I went to work whether not I had money to put gas so I can go to work. they don’t know that.”

She eventually got her money through the workplace justice fund program. 

The program was launched last December through the county’s office of labor standards and enforcement.

Cruz was one of 35 people helped by the program.

Those who experience wage theft can visit san diego d-a dot-com to file a claim or call 866-402-6044 to get help, regardless of immigration status.

Alexander Nguyen, KPBS News.


An unusual burst of stormy weather darkened our skies Monday, and lit up the ground with lightning strikes.

National Weather Service forecaster Alex Tardy says there were more than 14-hundred blasts of lightning in Southern California on Monday.

650 made contact with the ground in San Diego and Los Angeles.

San Diego’s marine layer typically keeps those kinds of storms from forming here.

“It’s a stable condition where the atmosphere is happy.  It’s not excited.  There’s not much energy in the marine layer. So,when we’re dominated by it that prevents us from getting energetic storms”

The storm system didn’t do much for rainfall totals which are hovering near average for the current rain year.

But there is another storm in the forecast this coming weekend and that could mean rain and wind for the county.


The annual joint meeting of the San Diego Unified School Board and Trustees from the San Diego Community College District was held last night.

KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has more on the collaboration to find solutions to major school problems.

Once a year, the two district school boards meet, San Diego Unified trustees representing almost 100,000 students and members of the San Diego Community College board representing another 80,000 students.

Student trustees from both districts are also included in the joint meeting conversation.

Saigeldeep Ghotra is from Miramar College. She wants trustees to consider offering college-level classes earlier in high school starting with freshmen.

“By completing your associates in high school. It’s a phenomenon happening very often now. We just need our students to have the opportunity to take more classes earlier and I think there are students ready to take that.”

The joint group is also considering a long-term assessment model to quantify the successes and failures of students as they transfer from one district to the other.

M.G. Perez, KPBS News.


Lab scientists at San Diego State don’t have too far to go to turn in their old lab coat and get a clean one.

KPBS sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge tells us about the vending machines that dispense them.

Since the end of last year a vending machine, in the breezeway of the Chemical Sciences Lab building, has been providing lab coats to any lab scientist that needs one.

Just swipe your university ID card and a freshly laundered one, free of charge, falls into the bin where you can grab it.

They have the regular white ones and some blue ones that are flame resistant.

Before, the coats would pile up in labs then typically get thrown out.

OSHA regulations require them to be washed in a certified manner.

Facilities coordinator for chemistry and biochemistry Greg Elliot says his old lab coat got really gross.

“It’s black. There’s no amount of washing I could do to ever get it white again. Now wait a second. It’s black? It’s not black-black. I would say charcoal now.”

One student said the system is convenient and more environmentally conscious, since lab coats get properly cleaned and used again.

Thomas Fudge, KPBS News. 


Coming up, we have a conversation with reporter Tania Thorne about a new series that aims to help parents find their village when it comes to childcare and other family support.

We’ll have that interview and more, just after the break.

KPBS News is premiering a new digital video series today. Joining me to talk about it, is its creator and host, Tania Thorne, who is also a reporter who covers the North County for KPBS.

Tania, welcome to the San Diego News Now podcast.

Your project is called “Where’s My Village.” Give us the elevator pitch, what’s it about?

How did the idea for it come about?

In the series trailer you mention you’ve previously done a good amount of reporting on childcare, was there anything that you were surprised to learn this time around?

“It’s crazy that I feel behind and the baby is not even here yet. I don’t even know what our baby’s name is or what the gender of our baby is and I’m stressed out that I’m behind on figuring out their childcare, and to me, it seems a little backwards that the baby is not even here on earth yet and I’m trying to figure out who’s going to watch it.”

What do you hope people take away from this series?

Can you give us a preview of some of the tips you have for parents who are struggling to find childcare?

Where can people watch your series?

And you will also be participating in a KPBS event on child care. What can you tell us about that?

I’ve been speaking with KPBS north county reporter, Tania Thorne… the creator and host of the new KPBS digital series “Where’s My Village.”

Tania, it was so nice chatting with you. I’m looking forward to watching the series. 


By the time you hear this, the San Diego Padres 2024 season will already be underway.

The Friars started the regular season in Seoul, South Korea for 2 games with the L-A Dodgers.

This is the first time Major League Baseball has hosted regular season games in South Korea.

It’s a similar event to last year’s series in Mexico City, where the Padres were also featured.

Those who want to catch game 2 can stay up late or get up early for the 3 A-M start time tomorrow (Thursday).

A free livestream can be watched at Padres-dot-TV.

ESPN will have the national broadcast.

The Padres will be back in San Diego this weekend for several events, including Fan-Fest at Petco Park on Sunday.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. We’ll be back tomorrow.. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Local action to protect workers from wage theft, a weather expert explains the recent strong storms in San Diego and KPBS launches the “Where’s Your Village” online series to help local families with childcare resources and advice.