When CPI founders Donald Cohen and Mary Grillo started this organization they recognized that working people and families in San Diego were losing ground. They identified some of the things we needed to do to stop falling back and to start moving forward.
One, we needed an organization that focused on San Diego. CPI’s founders and early supporters were visionaries who understood that real change starts at the local level. But they also ensured that we are allied with organizations around the country doing similar work. Our ongoing affiliation with Partnership for Working Families and our newer membership in the Center for Public Democracy are examples of how CPI coordinates with other city- and regionally-focused organizations to support each other, share ideas, and work together on broader goals.
Our founders also knew that to win policy change we needed to know the facts for ourselves. The economic justice movement needed reliable, focused research on poverty and low wages in San Diego. The very first CPI report (published in 1998), Poverty and Prosperity in the New Economy, revealed the hidden truth of economic inequality and insecurity in this sparkling tourist city. Our commitment to fact-based policy analysis is why we’re honoring Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa tonight.
Early on there was a recognition that facts don’t go far without action. Since its founding CPI has led and participated in coalitions that have had great successes. We know that the key to winning is organizing and bringing labor, community groups, faith leaders, and all the diversity of our community together. That’s why tonight we’ll recognize CPI’s first organizer—Quynh Nguyen.
In 2005, we won the long battle for the City of San Diego Living Wage Ordinance, ensuring that any company contracting with the City of San Diego must pay all employees a living wage. And under Clare Crawford’s leadership, we raised the floor on wages and ensured access to 5 sick days for everyone employed in the city, by any employer.
The corporate opposition was so fierce we had to win that one twice, at City Council in 2014 and with overwhelming approval by San Diego voters in 2016.
Over our twenty year history, CPI has help pull back the curtains on incompetence, dishonesty and heartlessness at SANDAG, and in various city halls and at the county board of supervisors. Everyone we’ve fought alongside union members and other community leaders to make San Diego a better place to live, to work and to raise a family.
Thanks to 20 years of this work and the 100’s of other staff, volunteers, activist, and supporters, San Diego has a relatively strong economy. We have powerful leaders who are committed to fighting for working families and who know that those families are diverse in their race, class, gender, sexual identity, and nation of birth. We have unions that are adding members and negotiating contracts.