Guest Column by Ed Harris
Last month I was outside the Trader Joe’s at Liberty Station where I met Pete. Pete’s from Los Angeles and came down to San Diego to obtain signatures to oppose the minimum wage ordinance. I listened to him talking to a woman about the ordinance, and since Pete wasn’t completely forthcoming with his information, I felt compelled to intervene. I introduced myself as one of the San Diego City Council members who voted in favor of the ordinance. I then asked the woman if she knew what she was signing. “Not really,” she said. When I asked Pete why he was gathering signatures he told me, “Hey, I’m just trying to make a living.” (People collecting signatures in opposition to the minimum wage ordinance made up to $10 and $12 per signature.)
I supported an increase in the minimum wage because an additional $1.50 over three years is a fair compromise. That pencils out to $12 a day more for minimum wage workers. I couldn’t support the figures of $13.09 or $15.00 an hour that had been on the bargaining table.
As a Marine veteran it concerns me that in San Diego we have over 10,000 veterans currently making the minimum wage. For over 200 years, our servicemen and women have not let us down. Yet, as a nation we frequently fail our veterans. Why would we want to fail them again?
Shortly after the Trader Joe’s incident, a friend called to tell me a local radio host was on the air talking about the minimum wage ordinance and was speaking about me in less than flattering terms. The radio host also told his listeners that if you’re 25 years old and making minimum wage you have failed in life. I quickly jumped on the phone and called into the station.
It’s amazing to me how divisive this issue has become, and being called “a villain” on the radio was certainly a first. Other cities like San Jose and Seattle have successfully passed minimum wage ordinances to help keep their residents out of poverty, and small businesses didn’t close their doors because of it. Why wouldn’t we want to give a modest wage increase to our neighbors?
I supported a modest increase in the minimum wage because it was the smart and right thing to do. Putting a few extra dollars into the pockets of working people can make a world of difference for them and their families, and I believe our community and our country are stronger when we help each other, and weaker when we undermine each other. It’s ironic that Pete had to resort to collecting signatures opposing a measure that supports his own interests. But then again Pete, like his neighbors in San Diego, is just trying to make a living.