San Francisco OKs $17 Minimum Wage for Contractors (1)

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By Joyce E. Cutler

San Francisco’s minimum wage for employees of government contractors would jump to $17 an hour under an ordinance heading to the mayor’s desk.

The city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved minimum wage amendments that boost wages by at least $2 an hour for employees of for-profit contractors and entities holding city leases. The current hourly rate under the city’s minimum wage ordinance is $15. The increase is even greater for employees at the San Francisco International Airport, whose current minimum wage is $13.50 per hour, Board President Malia Cohen said before the Sept. 25 vote.

The legislation was introduced in March 2017 to give a phased-in increase to employees of for-profit city contractors. Over the last 18 months the proposed ordinance was altered 10 times to give organized labor, including UNITE HERE Local 2, which represents airport restaurant workers, and the city time to negotiate, Cohen said. Teamsters Local 856 and Service Employees International Union also represent airport workers.

The costs will be borne by contractors, Cohen said. “The impetus to move this forward is urgent,” with Nov. 3 being the soonest it can be implemented, she said.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen reminded her colleagues that “$17 an hour only amounts to about $35,000 a year, and we all know you’d be hard-pressed to survive in this city on $35,000 a year salary.”

The approved ordinance now heads to Mayor London Breed (D) who has 10 days to sign, veto, or let the ordinance become law without her signature.

Mixed Reaction

Cohen thanked the San Francisco Labor Council and especially UNITE HERE Local 2 members “for their extreme patience as we hammered out this deal.”

All employees of for-profit contractors would get the $2 raise under amendments that remove the current requirement for employees to work at least 10 days to be eligible for the minimum wage. An additional increase is effective July 1, 2019, based on the Consumer Price Index.

The amendments clarify that employees of nonprofit organizations, including in-home supportive service workers who care for people in their homes, are covered by the city’s $15 minimum wage.

“This is a boon to thousands of UNITE HERE members in the airline catering industry as we start negotiations for a new contract there,” said Anand Singh, UNITE HERE Local 2 president, adding that “airline food service workers struggle to meet their basic needs every day—a dynamic we seek to change at the bargaining table.”

Business groups aren’t happy about the measure.

“The private sector has already had to pay higher wages to attract workers,” including restaurants at the airport, said Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “In looking at data for the industry, median wages were nearly $20 for regular employees here in the Bay Area. Restaurants are adding incentives like signing bonuses, paid transportation and more to attract and retain employees.”

Home Support Workers?

Separately, supervisors Ronen, Sandra Fewer, and Jane Kim introduced Sept. 25 a $13 million supplemental budget appropriation to increase the pay for employees at nonprofits and who work in homes to $17 per hour over three years.

Voting to increase wages for for-profit contractor and airport workers “is not a liability for us so I know this is an easier vote for us,” said Kim, co-author of the original legislation. Kim encouraged supervisors to raise the wages for 20,000 in-home support workers.

Some 1,700 full-time-equivalent employees who work at nonprofit organizations with contracts at the Department of Public Health and about 500 child-care workers are covered under the amendments.

Nonprofit and in-home support workers under the just-introduced ordinance would receive a 75-cent hourly raise Dec. 1, 2018, and eventually reach $17 an hour by Oct. 1, 2019. The $13 million supplemental covers the cost in fiscal year 2018-19.

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