Wage Increases Won for 25,000 Low-wage Workers

The Board of Supervisors at their October 23 meeting unanimously passed amendments to the Minimum Compensation Ordinance after a deal was reached with the Mayor’s office.

The minimum rate for non-profit workers and CalWORKs participants increases to $16.50 per hour on July 1, 2019, and then every July 1 afterwards it will have a cost-of-living adjustment to keep up with inflation. The minimum rate for workers at for-profit businesses and the airport was previously increased to $17 per hour, and goes into effect on November 11 (the Chronicle incorrectly reported that it is on Nov. 3), and will have a cost-of-living adjustment on July 1, 2019. At that point, the non-profit rate will be more than $1 per hour behind the for-profit rate. We will continue to fight to bring the non-profit rate up to the same level as the for-profit rate so that non-profit workers and CalWORKs participants are not relegated to second-class status.

For IHSS home care workers, the wage progression is –

February 1, 2019 – $16 per hour

July 1, 2019 – $16.50

July 1, 2020 – $17.50

July 1, 2021 – $18

July 1, 2022 – $18.75

with cost-of-living adjustments every July 1 afterwards

The section providing an hourly cash equivalent for paid time off when a contractor is not able to provide actual days off still remains in the ordinance. That should provide more than 50 cents an hour in additional pay to IHSS home care workers because they do not get days off.

New language in the amendments makes the increases to the minimum rates contingent on the Mayor or the Board of Supervisors putting in sufficient funding during the budget process and the Controller certifying whether the funding is sufficient for the whole raise or just a partial raise. Another section has the Controller convening a Working Group to advise the Supervisors and the Mayor on issues would result from an increase in the wage rate for non-profit workers. The Working Group would deliver a report to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor by April 1, 2019, a couple of months before the Mayor releases her budget.  We are committed to being engaged and fighting in the budget process to both making sure that the full wage raises happen and that there is sufficient funding to non-profits for the full wage raise.

The wage raises are meant to retain and attract workers to avert a pending crisis of the implosion of the social infrastructure of San Francisco. There are more than 20,000 home health care aides in San Francisco providing services to more than 22,000 elderly and disabled San Franciscans. Currently, 28 percent of the population of San Francisco is over 55. By 2030, this population is expected to grow 69 percent from the level in 2010. About half of the seniors in the City are 300 percent or below the federal poverty line of $35,000 per year. Around 60 percent are people of color and 52 percent speak a primary language other than English. The home health care aides are 42 percent Chinese, 24 percent white, 14 percent African American, 9 percent Latino and 11 percent other category. Around 88 percent are women. Home health care aides allow seniors to remain in their own homes and not be institutionalized. Presently there are only 29 residential care beds for every 1,000 seniors. This is expected to decrease by 20 percent.

There are more than 2,000 non-profit workers who are performing public services under City contract and making the minimum wage of $15 per hour. These include desk clerks and janitorial staff at supportive housing, and staff at homeless shelters, after school and summer programs for youth, senior programming, homeless support, violence prevention and mental health services.

There is a mass exodus of workers from these minimum wage positions because they are either struggling to not be displaced from San Francisco or have been forced out to Antioch or Pittsburg, or even farther environs like Tracy, Modesto and Stockton. As the minimum wage rises in the rest of California, they are at the point that it is not longer worth the hours of commute to work at the San Francisco minimum wage. Some non-profits are seeing a staff turnover as high as 40 percent.

The amendments originally were introduced in March, 2017. They came under withering attack by non-profit directors at the larger city-funded non-profit agencies. This was primarily because, while there is a provision in the ordinance that a non-profit can get a hardship waiver from increasing wages, this is only available if the highest-paid employee is not making more than six times what the lowest-paid employee is making, which is $187,200 annually with employees at the current minimum wage.

The non-profit directors who came out against the MCO amendments included:

Gail Gilman, executive director of Community Housing Partnership, whose reported compensation on a 2015 IRS 990 was $188,464.

Steve Fields, executive director of Progress Foundation, whose 2015 IRS 990 reported $219,146.

Sherilyn Adams, executive director of Larkin Street Community Services, whose 2017 IRS 990 reported $219,142

Tramecia Garner, associate director for housing and residential programs with Swords to Plowshares, whose executive director Michael Blecker had a reported compensation in 2016 of $197,720

Richard Heasley, executive director of Conard House, whose 2016 IRS 990 reported $170,184

However, the opposition wilted away in the face of an outpouring of public support for the amendments. Residents around the City called and emailed their supervisors and the mayor’s office. More than 1000 signed petition cards and 350 signed an online petition. A low-wage worker speak-out on the steps of City Hall under the Mayor’s window pushed her to a last minute agreement to support the amendments, with the changes in wage increases mentioned earlier in this report and the language about raises being contingent on the budget process. More than 200 IHSS home care workers, non-profit workers, CalWORKs participants, and their supporters, particularly members of SEIU Locals 2015 and 1021, packed the Supervisors chambers during their meeting and scores gave testimony during public comment. The non-profit executives stayed out in the hallway and did not come in to speak during public comment. They sent in the staff person for the Human Services Network as the sole speaker against the amendments.

The sheroes and heroes of this campaign are workers such as…

Nyuawanda Davis, a desk clerk at Community Housing Partnership, who spoke out at actions at City Hall, in public comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting, in delegations to Supervisors offices, and in a video clip that received 286 views. Her video interview was so powerful and moving in its appeal to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors that Facebook blocked it from wider distribution as a paid ad with the ominous statement that the imagery was “related to politics or issues of national importance.” Mark Zuckerburg undoubtedly was worried that his name would be stripped off of General Hospital.

“I am working every single day of the week. I don’t have a day off. My quality of life is so low because I am making $15 per hour. With the $15, I have to make decisions like what doctors do I want to go to. If I have something that is ailing me, what priority is it. It is based on my money if I can afford to take this day off to go to the doctor and see what is going on with me. The service we are providing to the City is important. We are working with a population [formerly homeless residents] that is bringing a lot of attention to San Francisco. So if we are doing this job for you, you should compensate us accordingly. We are important too. I was born and raised in San Francisco and should not be pushed out because of what I am making an hour,” said Ms. Daniels in her video.

Others who did video interviews for social media include Hattie Patterson, a desk clerk at Tenderloin Housing Clinic and member of SEIU Local 1021; Claudia Arevalo, home care worker and member of SEIU Local 2015; and Anita Lau, an IHSS home care worker and member of SEIU Local 2015.

“I live in San Francisco. I have been working as an IHSS homecare worker for more than 10 years,” Ms. Lau said. “My client has a stroke who needs extensive care every day. We need a living wage because homecare workers have to pay for the caring tools such as gloves and wipes to do our jobs. We actually take home less that what we are paid. We have to spread out our homecare hours for the day, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, and while our approved hours are less than a full time job, it is impossible for homecare workers to take a second job. The older the homecare worker gets, the more demanding are the clients’ needs, the minimum wage is not going to be attractive to a new worker looking for work. That’s why we need to increase the living wage [name used for the Minimum Compensation Ordinance].”

IHSS home care workers such as Daisy McArthur, Bradley Wiedmaier, Stacy Curtis, and Maria Esther Ventura; non-profit workers such as Teresa Rondone, Nancy Esteva, and Anakh Sul Rama; and CalWORKs participants such as Danisha Floyd and Kendra Smallwood spoke out at rallies, Supervisor hearings, in presentations from the pulpit at church services, and in delegations to Supervisors offices, and there were many others who participated in this campaign.

On a final note, the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition has been in a cycle of deficit spending in the last few months in the final push of the campaign to pass these amendments. We have outstanding bills that need to be paid at the end of this month. Please take a moment to make a donation at Donate.