Labor Union Demands $25 Minimum Wage for Service Workers in Popular California City

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 01, 2024

A new ordinance put forward to the city of San Diego has been backed by multiple unions.

The new plan to boost the minimum wage would increase salaries of thousands of workers by 50 percent in only one year.

Labor Unions Representing Thousands of Workers

Currently, many customer facing jobs in California do not have the backing of unions to protect their wages and their interests.

A view of a fast-food counter with workers in uniform and face masks preparing orders, with a digital menu screen in the background

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While groups like servers, bartenders, and fast-food workers hope to be part of these unions someday, they are currently left out of the bargaining. The new ruling would affect thousands hotel janitorial, and convention workers.

San Diego City Council Poised With a Tough Decision

Labor unions have called on the San Diego City Council with the intent of boosting pay to the lowest paid service workers to $25 an hour.

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The city wide decision would increase the current wages of hotel workers, janitors, and staff in convention halls. From hotels and the San Diego Convention Center to Petco Park, Pechanga Arena and tech companies like Qualcomm all have workers being paid less than what is needed to live in these expensive areas. 

Mile-Long March to City Hall

Members of the union and workers who support the new ordinance planned a mile-long march to City Hall on Wednesday.

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They hope to garner support from the community that they serve to pass the new bill and improve the quality of life for service workers.

Service Workers Paid the Lowest in San Diego County

Currently, service workers are paid the lowest wages in the county even though San Diego is one of the most expensive places to live in California.

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The ordinance calls for all city hotel workers, janitors, employees at event centers, and security personnel at big biotech and technology companies to be paid a living wage. San Diego has a thriving event scene and hosts thousands of concerts, sporting events, and conventions each year. The work of service based employees is essential to make these events run smoothly. 

Some Workers Are Currently Paid the Least

In a statement to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Bridgette Browning, the leader of the union, says that out of 8,000 hotel workers, many currently make as little as $16.85 – San Diego’s minimum wage.

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She says that the group hopes to set a new standard for service personnel in the city. San Diego remains one of the most costly cities in California and many service workers struggle to pay rent in the pricey city. Within the group, people have shared stories of being forced to pay their rent instead of buying groceries. 


Raising Confidence of Workers

Unite Here Local 30 is a service workers rights group dedicated to raising the wage of the lowest paid employees in large organizations and companies. 

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Source: Unite Here Local 40/Wikipedia Commons

They say that their mission is to support and strengthen the democratic process to ensure a quality of life throughout the city.


Other Big Unions in Support of Raising the Wage

Along with Unite Here, the janitor’s union, SEIU-United Service Workers West; and the stagehand’s union, IATSE 122 (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) are all in support of raising the wage.

A group of senior men wearing black face masks with the IATSE logo sit on folding chairs holding a group discussion

Source: Department of Labor- James Aronovsky/Wikipedia Commons

Service workers occupy almost every space throughout the city. Within big multi-billion dollar tech companies to filming studios and more, service workers are needed to help these companies function and make big profits. 


Recent Wins To Improve Minimum Wage

Due to these groups combining their efforts, they had some big wins last year. The union groups were part of the effort to raise the fast-food minimum wage to $20 this year.

Workers in a fast food restaurant kitchen, wearing red uniforms, are preparing burgers in an assembly line process. They are adding toppings like lettuce and tomatoes to the burgers, which are lined up on a metal counter. In the foreground, a container of chopped grilled onions

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As well, health care workers will also see their pay rise to about $25 over a set period of time.


Current Wages Are Not Enough

Although the California minimum wage is $16, well over the national minimum wage, many groups and workers say that this number is simply not enough to get by.

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According to Zillow, the median price of rent for a one bedroom in California is $2,795. A minimum wage worker would not make enough to even cover rent.


Other Cities in Support of the Measure

Within the past few months, Long Beach approved a similar ordinance to ensure that hotel worker’s wages would increase to $23 an hour, with more increases to follow. They hope to pay hotel workers $29.50 by 2028.

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The changes to workers’ pay reflects the knowledge that many people cannot afford to live in the cities where the work is needed.


Unions Are Competing With Other Tourist Destinations

While the group admits that the wages will cut into businesses’ bottom lines, they are meant to protect workers in an unfair market.

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In places like Orlando and Las Vegas, the minimum wage has increased by 100 percent in the last decade. The wages easily reflect the price of rent in the area and the cost of doing business in a popular tourist destination.