The campaign to increase the minimum wage to $15 for city of Mission employees came to a standstill not long after it began.
Activist organization Ground Game Texas teamed up with local advocates La Unión del Pueblo Entero and announced the Mission Quince initiative in December 2021. They intended to start the campaign in January, but according to Ground Game organizer Lorena Ramirez, they have since paused the effort.
“I don’t know exactly what the situation was, but we had to put a hold on that,” Ramirez said. “We’re going to go back to that campaign a little later. We decided to do the Edinburg campaign, so that’s what we’re working on right now.”
Ground Game Texas was adamant that a wage increase without a tax increase in Mission would be possible, and they were trying to garner enough voter support to put the item on the May election ballot. To get the initiative on the ballot, the advocates had 45 days from Jan. 5 to acquire at least 1,860 signatures from Mission residents in favor of a pay increase. But now that will have to wait.
Ground Game Executive Director Julie Oliver said the organization targeted Mission as a prime city for the minimum wage initiative because the mayor favored the issue. Mayor Armando O’Caña has been an adamant supporter of increasing Mission’s minimum wage to $15 since he ran for office in 2018; other council members have said it is not possible with the existing budget and ongoing city projects. But Oliver does not believe that is an acceptable response.
“Just throwing my hands in the air and clutching my pearls and saying, ‘I can’t find [the money],’ is truly, in my opinion, it’s a cop-out,” Oliver said. “People deserve a living wage.”
At the start of the current fiscal year, the city of Mission increased the civilian full-time employee minimum wage to $11.85 and a part-time employee minimum wage to $10.50. Although Mission’s pay rate is higher than the state minimum of $7.25, the local advocate groups say there is still room for improvement.
“You end up losing talent to other employers, to other cities. And Mission is not alone in this,” Oliver said. “There are a lot of cities in Texas that are struggling to find workers. And I think addressing higher wages would be a bonus to many cities. It would help lift wages in that community because, suddenly, employers have to compete with what the city is paying. The rising tide lifts all boats, that’s what this does.”
Ramirez did not give a timeline for when the Mission Quince initiative would resume but that it would be sometime after the Edinburg campaign is complete — a campaign, she said, that looks promising.
“It’s going really well. We’re very hopeful that it’s going to be a success,” the Ground Game organizer said. “It’s really needed in the Valley, and it’s long overdue.”