“Hold up, wait a minute, put a living wage in it,” chanted approximately 80 demonstrators as they walked along State Street on Tuesday night.
Members of the Living Wage, a group dedicated to raising the minimum wage for Santa Barbara city employees, gathered in front of City Hall on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. while the city council weekly meeting adjourned for a break. During the hour-long demonstration, demonstrators addressed the crowd on a megaphone and chanted as they walked around a short block on State Street before returning to City Hall. The rally was intended to gather community support for the living wage ordinance, which would raise the minimum wage for city employees to $11 an hour with health benefits or $12.25 without health benefits. The proposal will be presented to the city council next month, said Selena Gonzales, a Living Wage member and junior sociology major.
“Basically, right now the living wage is not enough to live in Santa Barbara. This would cover employees working for companies who work for or have subsidies with the city,” she said. “It’s unfair for someone who’s working full time to live in poverty, which is what we’re finding. [The living wage proposal] is not some new, radical idea.”
The group formed less than a year ago to author a proposal in response to Santa Barbara workers’ inability to afford living in the area while working full time at the current minimum wage. Living Wage and Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District board member Harley Augustino said similar ordinances passed in 54 other cities nationwide.
“Basically a bunch of people are making living wage movements that have been sweeping through the country,” he said. “What we’re trying to accomplish today is to show the city council that we have community support. We want dignity and justice for low-wage employees.”
John Paine, Latinos for Better Government president, said it costs $16.60 an hour to “barely” live in the Santa Barbara area.
“This is a national movement,” he said. “We’re not out here to hurt businesses; a member of the community, a human being, deserves a sustainable wage.”
Social justice, religious and labor organizations along with student groups are supporting the ordinance, Gonzales said. Trinity Episcopal Church Rev. Mark Asman said the support has been overwhelming and well-deserved.
“I think living wage is one piece of a justice issue,” he said. “People should be able to work for a dignified wage.”
The Living Wage will be holding a community celebration with food, live music and dancing Friday, April 20, from 6-10 p.m. at Casa de la Raza, located at 601 E. Montecito St.