City Budget Requests, Unpaid Glitter Unicorns and Congressional Follies

by on January 29, 2015 · 1 comment

in Economy, Labor, Media, Politics, San Diego

san diego sealBy Doug Porter

There’s lots to report on, starting with the annual wish lists for the coming fiscal year’s City of San Diego budget. The consensus item among the city council’s lists is finding more money for paying police.

A local non-profit’s Facebook posting seeking unpaid interns (along with paying positions) to participate in building support for increased minimum wages came under fire yesterday. But things aren’t always as they seem; I think there is another agenda at play here.

And the 114th Congress is off to a great start, unless you want to count passing meaningful legislation as part of it’s goals.

Gimme Money, Honey

The San Diego City Council Budget Review Committee hearing Wednesday morning gave local representatives a chance to air their budgetary preferences for the coming fiscal year.

They’re hoping the mayor will consider requests for police pay raises, new fire stations, new parks, longer hours at recreation centers and street upgrades favoring pedestrians and cyclists for funding out of a projected surplus of $63 million for the coming year.

From UT-San Diego:

Council members are also lobbying Mayor Kevin Faulconer to include more money for streetlights, stoplight synchronization and projects for pedestrians and bicyclists in his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In addition, three council members representing the city’s poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods want an expansion of community-oriented policing in the wake of social unrest last year in Ferguson, Mo., that was prompted by a white police officer shooting an unarmed black teen.

“The crime prevention measures, problem-solving, community engagement and community partnerships that result from community-oriented policing must be prioritized,” says a joint budget request memo from council members David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald. “The recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and other parts of our nation have brought new focus on the need to improve law enforcement’s interaction with the public it serves.”

Mayor Faulconer will unveil a proposed budget April 14, for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2015.

VOSD’s Minimum Wage ‘Irony’

Voice of San Diego editor/CEO Scott Lewis penned an article Tuesday, Jan. 27, calling out the non-profit Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) for recruiting volunteer interns as part of their ongoing effort in building public support for the minimum wage.

From Voice of San Diego:

voice“The Organizing Intern will be supporting the Organizing Department with their campaigns around raising the minimum wage and low wage workers’ issues,” the job posting reads. The qualifications required of applicants indicate they’ll be doing some work on email programs and maybe even translating — not just learning.

Unfortunately, here’s the (non-)money quote:

These internships are unpaid but are a great way to build your resume and get experience working at an organization that advocates for economic justice in the region. CPI can offer internships for course credit if it is available through your college campus.

We are proud of our alumni and will gladly provide references for hard-working interns seeking employment or other internships.

Come support the push for a minimum wage. Just don’t expect a wage.

No, you don’t get any pay but you can turn into a “glitter unicorn for social justice” according to CPI’s Facebook page.

Here’s the tweet he sent after posting the story:

Lewis was drawing on what has been an ongoing controversy–mostly aimed at for-profit enterprises–about internship programs that exploit participants. Judges have consistently ruled against companies with programs violating wage and hour laws by using the internships as free labor.

Fox Searchlight, Hearst Corp., Gawker Media, and Warner Music Group are among those who have been sued by former interns. Department of Labor regulations say internships in the private sector must benefit the intern, not the employer, and interns generally may not do work that is done by regular employees.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, raised questions about internships in the nonprofit world when she attempted to recruit for an unpaid editorial position at Lean In, a group founded to help women navigate corporate ladders. The University of California revised its criteria two years ago for internships following a San Francisco Superior Court award for damages in a lawsuit brought by a former graduate student.

The problem with the VOSD story is that it didn’t even attempt to determine if CPI’s programs was illegal or exploitative. Editor/Reporter Lewis found it ironic that a group would use utilize volunteers for a campaign to raise the minimum wage and assumed everybody else would share his reasoning. He didn’t even directly ask (there was an exchange of tweets) anybody at CPI about the program.

I actually ran paid internship programs over a 30 year period for both profit and nonprofit entities. I agree with the premise that internships should be paid. There should be a line between internship programs and volunteer efforts. Both can co-exist– if properly managed– in a nonprofit environment. Each summer CPI runs an intensive internship program paying well above minimum wage. Last year it was $14 per hour, same as the City’s living wage. This summer it’s $15.

I think both institutions involved here and the issue at hand need to be examined in context. And let’s just say that the “attitude” oozing through the cracks in this story is revealing.

A Movement vs a News Story

cpi_logoThe Center on Policy Initiatives is the think tank for liberal/progressive issues in San Diego. They’re engaged in research on a variety of issues. I’m generally supportive and utilize their work in my advocacy.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit media entity that likes to think of itself as exploring the changing world of journalism. I’ve been impressed with much of the research and reporting going on there. I quote from their work often and have (in the past) even donated money to support their efforts.

Voice of San Diego doesn’t appear to have much respect for CPI’s work, at least in recent years. I don’t think VOSD’s output on this issue was friendly (or even fair) to the think tank’s advocacy for a higher minimum wage.

I don’t think VOSD would agree with my assessment.

I know CPI would. They think VOSD’s coverage has been embarrassingly slanted in favor of the Chamber of Commerce for many months. Certainly Lewis’ failure to to seek comment or explanation and relying on a Facebook post that could have been better worded must seem like a smear to CPI’s staff working to raise the minimum wage in San Diego.

To me VOSD is about what Jeff Cohen calls centrist propaganda. They emphasize system-supporting news. The concept of a viewpoint looking up from the bottom or outside the system is alien to them. Thus this “irony” is good for maintaining access to power, which is what makes this kind of journalism work.

The minimum wage issue is representative of a broad social movement seeking more opportunities and equity for working people. They are opposed by business groups with seemingly unlimited funding with vested interest in protecting what I call a corporate welfare system enabling companies to pay sub-par wages completely unconnected to either productivity or profitability. Of course there will need to be unpaid volunteers, petitions and protesters in this struggle.

There is no irony about students volunteering with CPI for that cause (and others, especially when they get college credit). Even then it’s hardly a fair fight. It’s David vs. Goliath. And it appears to me that Lewis is betting on Goliath.

And in Other San Diego News…

skyline1Hey there minimum wage earners! Look how bad your life sucks! From NBC 7:

America’s Finest City is also one of America’s richest cities.

In a newly released list by Wall St. Cheat Sheet, San Diego was ranked the No. 5 richest city in America.

The ranking looked at cities with a population greater than 500,000 people that have the highest percentage of households earning at least $150,000 per year.

It also provides the salary you would need to live comfortably in each city. In San Diego, that salary is $101, 984. (The Cheat Sheet says the magic income to feel comfortable is $75,000.)


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at our online media partner, San Diego Free Press.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frank Gormlie January 29, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Scott Lewis came up to me during the OB Town Council meeting Wed night and was very nice and congratulated the OB Rag on recent articles and exclusives. It was good to hear, and thank you Scott. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean you escape the Wrath of Porter either here or elsewhere.


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