By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – A letter to the editor caught my attention. While the letter was endorsing one of the candidates for city council, the substance of the letter raised a lot of issues that relate to recent discussions.
The writer has lived in Davis for two years, is a member of SEIU Local 1000, and rents an apartment in a complex that is “largely filled by young professionals and graduate students.”
Naturally a big concern is the cost of housing in Davis.
The writer notes, “I’m alarmed by a recent report that shows 69% of state employees don’t make enough money to start a family.”
He continued, “The combination of slow State salary adjustments and fast rent increases in the Sacramento Metro area made this situation worse.”
He explained, “Many of the people who make up the wonderful community that is Davis are state employees — either working for the university or commuting to Sacramento. Just as we will lose our community if it ever sprawled across the causeway into West Sacramento, we will lose our community if the people who define the Davis community can no longer afford to live here, and instead are forced to pollute our air by driving 40 miles into work from Vallejo.”
Moreover, “With the state rejecting the city’s housing element because it does not contain enough affordable housing, we need a representative on the City Council who can listen to all sides and propose reasonable solutions to build more affordable housing in our community in a way that maintains the character of our town — in both the diversity of its landscape and in the diversity of the people who make up the community.”
The writer cited a report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center that found “that many workers essential to keeping the state running and providing crucial services are struggling to make ends meet. Ensuring a living wage to government workers is critical to helping the state recover from the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The report found “the state does not provide living wages to a significant portion of its workforce. This has resulted in many of the State of California’s working families facing enormous challenges including food insecurity and an untenable rent burden.”
Among the key findings:
- More than a third of state workers represented by SEIU 1000 do not earn enough to support a family of four even with a working partner who earns the same salary.
- More than two-thirds do not earn enough to support themselves and a child on their own.
“Our research finds that the very people providing essential services to help Californians emerge from the impacts of the pandemic are themselves struggling to make ends meet,” said Enrique Lopezlira, economist and director of the UC Berkeley Labor Center Low Wage Work Program. “California cannot recover economically or socially if workers do not earn enough to be self-sufficient and support a family.”
What’s more, 5% of workers represented by SEIU 1000 earn too little to meet basic needs on their own.
“We’re making barely $15 and some change an hour while the cost of living is skyrocketing,” said Jason, a building and maintenance worker in the LA Area who did not want to give his last name.
For many, like Karen, a custodian in downtown Los Angeles, low wages mean taking on extra work.
“I work a side job, too. So I have to have that extra money to basically get through the month.”
At the end of the day, the cost of housing in Davis is keeping working people, families and others out of our community and in the end that is going to have a detrimental impact on our community.
I flagged the letter in this case because it comes from a voice that we often don’t here—a state worker, and his struggles with living in Davis.