Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has asked for an evaluation of raising wages for the county's lowest paid workers after a group of community organizers and leaders urged San Antonio and Bexar County officials to increase pay for public employees.
Leaders from COPS (Communities Organized for Public Service) and Metro Alliance, a coalition of dozens of unions, churches and schools, have asked Wolff and the county commissioners to consider raising wages for county employees from the current $11.67 per hour to $14.91 over the next three years. The current wage floor rests at 100 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four and anything less than the proposed $14.91 per hour qualifies families of four for food stamps.
COPS/Metro Alliance defines a living wage, measured differently than the minimum wage, as the income necessary for workers to meet basic needs without relying on public benefits.
"We want wages to be high enough so that nobody has to go to food bank or get food stamps for help," Surya Kalra with COPS/Metro Alliance told the Current.
Though San Antonio boasts a low unemployment rate, about 20 percent of residents live in poverty.
COPS/Metro Alliance leaders are also requesting that city and county contract and subcontract jobs, which mainly include jobs in the service, janitorial, security and maintenance industries, pay workers at least $11.67 per hour. Right now, companies that bid for city or county contracts are not required to pay a living wage, Kalra said.
After representatives of the coalition presented at yesterday's Bexar County Commissioners Court meeting, Wolff directed the county manager to study how much it would cost to raise the current wage floor from $11.67 to $13 per hour in the next year. A more concrete plan is expected by January.
COPS/Metro Alliance leaders hope movement at the county level will inspire other public sector employers, including the city, school and hospital districts and Alamo Colleges district to also consider raising wages. The group has received support for their efforts from County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, mayoral candidate and former State Rep. Mike Villarreal and State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
Efforts have failed at the national level to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, which would impact more than 2.8 million Texans, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A handful of minimum-wage related bills have been filed by Democrats, including State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, for the upcoming Texas legislative session.