COPS/Metro Alliance and sister organizations are at the forefront of fights for living wages in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso and Dallas.
After increasing the wages of the lowest paid workers for Alamo Colleges, COPS / Metro quickly turned its focus to wage increases for the lowest paid workers of Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. Both entities are expected to vote in support of increasing the wages of their lowest paid workers to $13 / hour in early September.
“It was because of our concerted effort, said Mr. Robert Cruz of St. Leo the Great. "We’ve communicated with all the council members, and I think Mayor Taylor saw that the budget would sustain the rate increase. Everything came together. We’ve been very methodical, we’ve been very patient and we’ve been very persistent.”
“The public sector should lead the way,” said Esmeralda Rodriguez of St. Timothy Catholic Church at a recent press conference on the steps of City Hall. “Where we spend our money says a lot about our values, so the City budget is a moral document.” Council members Ray Lopez (D6), Shirley Gonzales (D5), Cris Medina (D7), and Alan Warrick II (D2), joined COPS/Metro leaders to support phasing in a $15 per hour minimum wage within the next few years.
Leaders also expect that Bexar County Commissioners will vote to establish a wage floor of $9.50 / hour for contracted workers, boosting their bottom wage by $2.25 / hour. “I have stopped numerous people who work for a contractor in our building doing maintenance work, and cleaning, and I can tell you that several of them are making $7.50 an hour,” Judge Wolff said. “We will tell our contractors that their game is going to change.”
San Antonio Poised to Increase Wages for Some Workers, San Antonio Express-News
Texas Cities Leading the Way on Living Wages, Texas Observer
Luckless at Capitol, Wage Advocates go Local, Texas Tribune
Check out recent coverage of COPS/Metro’s efforts in working with the City Manager and Council in raising the bottom wages of City of San Antonio workers:
At its first convention in 1974, Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) passed a resolution to open a community college on San Antonio's West Side or South Side. COPS leaders worked tirelessly with elected officials and other community members to establish Palo Alto College on San Antonio's South Side. Palo Alto celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2015.Read more
COPS/Metro leaders have asked candidates for mayor to stand with us on our agenda to increase the living wage for public sector workers, invest in Project Quest and other workforce development strategies, and fund housing rehabilitation, especially for seniors.
Want to know where they stand? Here is an article about our recent assembly from Channel 4 News.
Leaders of COPS/Metro, a broad-based organization of churches, schools, and unions, will hold an Accountability Assembly with Candidates for Mayor and City Council, Sunday, April 19, at 3:30 PM in St. Henry’s Parish (1619 S. Flores St) to advance a Living Wage strategy for the lowest paid City of San Antonio workers and for outsourced & subcontract service jobs. Over 300 delegates are expected to attend the session, the top 4 candidates for Mayor, and City Council candidates from Districts 2, 3, 5, and 7.
"This is an exciting turning point in what has already proven to be a successful campaign,” remarked Esmeralda Rodriguez of St. Timothy Parish and co-chair for the assembly. “Since we began organizing around this issue last June, we’ve gained the support of 4 of the 5 Bexar County Commissioners to raise wages for the lowest paid county employees to $14.91 over three years, starting with $13 next year. And the Alamo Colleges have already raised wages for their lowest paid employees as a direct result of our actions. Now, we’re turning our attention to the City.”Read more
In late December 2014, the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board outlined several issues for the state and local government to tackle in 2015. They noted: "C.O.P.S./Metro Alliance has been waging a living-wage campaign in San Antonio, prevailing on city and county government leaders to pay their lowest-paid employees and contractors a decent wage, That means beyond minimum wage. The group got a good reception when making its pitch to Bexar County commissioners recently."
On January 18, 2015, the San Antonio Express-News published "Tax dollars should support living wages," credited to COPS/Metro leaders Fr. Steven Gamez and Sr. Consuelo Tovar. They made the case for #LivingWages and quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech: "It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages."
The commentary, "At 40, COPS still standing up for residents," by the first president of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), Andres "Andy" Sarabia, reflects on the organization's accomplishments during its first 40 years. This article appeared on page F6 in the Sunday, December 7, 2014 San Antonio Express-News.
In case you missed the November 21, 2014 installment of Texas Week with Rick Casey on KLRN-TV, or if you want to review or share it, the episode with COPS/Metro leader Mike Phillips discussing the Living Wage campaign with host Rick Casey and former City Council member and SAW Board member Reed Williams is now online.
Tune in to KLRN's Texas Week with Rick Casey this Friday night, November 21 at 8:00pm. COPS/Metro leader Mike Phillips will discuss the Living Wage & Economic Security campaign.
Tuesday morning, leaders from COPS and the Metro Alliance were joined by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on the steps of the Bexar County Courthouse in support of a three part strategy proposed by COPS/Metro to raise wages for the lowest paid workers in the county, as well as those working for county contractors. Later in the morning, COPS/Metro leaders formally presented the strategy to the commissioners.
At 10:30 AM during the County Commissioners meeting, COPS/Metro leaders asked the Commissioners to raise wages for the lowest paid county workers from the current floor of $11.67 an hour to $14.91 over a three year period. They also asked Commissioners to put the wages of people employed by county contractors on par with the current county living wage. The third strategy laid out by leaders was to close a tax loophole to require that all businesses applying for tax incentives of any kind abide by the current Economic Development guidelines regarding wage floors.
After hearing the presentation, Judge Wolff spoke favorably to all three pieces of the strategy. He directed the County Manager to research how to implement a plan that would raise the current minimum wage from $11.67 an hour to $13 an hour by next year. The County Manager will work with COPS/Metro leaders on an initial plan to be presented at Commissioner’s Court in early January 2015.
COPS/Metro leaders hope the County's willingness to look into the issue will encourage other employers, including the City of San Antonio, the Alamo Colleges, school boards and hospital district to consider raising wages.