Raise the Wage: Historic Day in San Francisco for Workers

Minimum Wage, Healthcare, and Worker Retention

, San Fancisco Labor Council


Raising the Minimum Wage – 11-0 with support of Mayor

The San Francisco Labor Council is proud to be part of an historic agreement reached yesterday with the Mayor and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that puts a consensus minimum wage measure on the November ballot that gets all workers to $15 with the cleanest non-exemption path in the United States.

It wasn’t easy. The organizing was difficult, the negotiating intense, but the coalition was unique, historic and dedicated – labor and community partners fighting to increase the power of San Francisco workers.  This was more than just an agreement to get $15 on the ballot, but also changed the culture of how labor unions and community organizations can fight together for equity, fair wages, and a voice at work.

And yesterday didn’t end with only the minimum wage deal. There is more.

But first I want to be clear about the ballot initiative we will organize to vote for this Fall and what the Mayor and all 11 Supervisors agreed to during yesterday’s press conference and the introduction at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

On May 1, 2015 the minimum wage for all workers in San Francisco will increase to $12.25. (The current minimum wage is $10.76 today and with our consumer price index we will be at $11.03 on January first.)

On July 1, 2016 the minimum wage will be $13.
On July 1, 2017 the minimum wage will be $14.
On July 1, 2018 the minimum wage will be $15.
On July 1, 2019 the minimum wage will be $15 with the consumer price index kicking in thereafter.

After talks with the business community, the nonprofits, and others there was never a desire to phase in any tiers based on business size or definition. All workers will be covered equally.

We agreed to two minor exemptions where the $12.25 will only be indexed – one for city-funded youth programs, and, two, for elderly monolingual immigrants in a housecleaning program where they will also receive health care and sick days during their later years with the goal of securing stability upon retirement.

Our coalition will also advocate for full enforcement. We are proud that San Francisco is the first city in America to have an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to monitor and enforce our worker laws and we will continue to fight for resources to empower this valuable department.

Shaw San Liu, Chinese Progressive Association

The labor and advocacy for this measure was advanced by the Coalition for a Fair Economy (CFE) that consisted of the following organizations who organized a grassroots base of workers throughout the city to collect signatures to put our own measure on the November ballot in order to start a real conversation. The CFE was formed by UNITE-HERE Local 2, SEIU Local 1021, The San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO, a Council of 150 unions), the California Nurses Association, the San Francisco branch of ACCE, Jobs with Justice, Young Workers United, the Chinese Progressive Association, Progressive Workers Alliance and SF Rising (both are worker of color & LGBT coalitions of 9 community organizations). 

While the Coalition has been working to move forward the minimum wage increase for over a year, many other labor and community organizations added their support during the last couple months of intensive organizing to build an even more powerful force. We had a signature gathering kick-off in the Mission District over a month ago where 100 organizers gathered to launch the campaign.

Until yesterday we were headed toward two ballot measures: the CFE coalition’s initiative versus a version that would take us past 2020 to get to $15.

The power built through the CFE’s grassroots organizing forced the issue at City Hall. And through the many rounds of negotiations and our continued organizing our coalition stayed united about raising standards to the highest in the country and reached our historic compromise, a ballot measure with no major exemptions and the fastest path nationally to $15 an hour for workers. 

Closing the loophole in the Health Care Security Ordinance – 11-0 with support of Mayor


In 2006 we passed San Francisco’s landmark universal healthcare law, the closest thing the United States has to universal health care with the public option, which required employers to make minimum expenditures towards their employees’ healthcare for each hour worked. This legislation, written by now Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, was a year-long, hard fought campaign spearheaded by the San Francisco Labor Council and key unions. This employer expenditure requirement has been successful at halting the erosion of employer-sponsored health coverage experienced by workers elsewhere in the nation and in helping to finance the expansion of access to care for uninsured workers through Healthy San Francisco. (This was the model legislation that our legislative leader Nancy Pelosi used as a template for moving the Affordable Care Act as far as the Congress could before the Senate compromises.)

However, since the law’s passage, a minority of San Francisco employers have avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in required spending by exploiting an unintended loophole.  In 2013 alone over $90 million dedicated to employees was not used to meet workers’ healthcare needs and was instead clawed back by employers.

Yesterday we closed that loophole thanks to the leadership of Supervisor David Campos, five other co-sponsors, and the coalition of two other Supervisors, London Breed and Mark Farrell.Their amendments navigated a phase-in of eliminating the claw-back of tens of millions of dollars that a small minority of employers had been employing since the ordinance’s inception in 2007.

The crux of the Campos legislation is to make the employer spending requirement irrevocable, meaning employers will not receive credit for having met the spending requirement if they reclaim unused money. Under the amendments crafted by Supervisors Campos, Farrell, and Breed, this irrevocability requirement will be phased in over two years as follows:

In calendar year 2015, 60% of the employer spending requirement must be irrevocable.
In calendar year 2016, 80% of the employer spending requirement must be irrevocable.
Beginning January 1, 2017, 100% of employer spending under the HCSO must be irrevocable.

The coalition that has been working to close the loophole for years is thrilled with this outcome. This legislation is a long overdue victory and will help thousands of San Francisco families afford healthcare coverage and get the quality care they need.

The incredible research and policy team guiding this campaign was led by Ken Jacobs from the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education; Paul Kumar, Health Care Consultant to the San Francisco Labor Council; and Ian Lewis, Research Director for Unite-Here Local 2.

This coalition coalescing around Supervisor David Campos’s and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s initiative included the San Francisco Labor Council, Unite–Here Local 2, SEIU 1021, OPEIU 3, California Nurses Association, NUHW, Health Access, ACCE, and the San Francisco Organizing Project (PICO), with support from many other community and labor partners.

Below is the San Francisco Chronicle article that outlines these legislative victories.


Worker Retention Ordinance – 11-0

As these Tuesday, June 7, 2014 votes rolled along we experienced a final convergence of what I will call, in racing terms, a Trifecta of victories. This third workers’ rights achievement culminated with the Supervisors passing an ordinance amending the Police Code to require large hospitality industry employers to retain employees for up to 90 days upon a change in control of the hospitality establishment. This was passed without objection by all 11 supervisors. This legislation built upon an ordinance that was passed over ten years ago to keep worker stability in the commercial real estate industry where building owners, upon changing janitorial and security officer companies, were required to keep the previous company’s employees for 90 days and not create instability, job turnover, and job insecurity for dedicated workers in service sector jobs who had no say in the building owners business decisions to change contractors.

UNITE Here Local 2 and SEIU Locals 87 and USWW were instrumental in fighting for this protection for all workers, whether covered by a collective bargaining agreement or not. This ordinance further secured worker security and stopped the wholesale job turnover by employers who care more about the bottom line than the workers who actually do the work.

This new Hospitality Job Security Ordinance requires new operators of tourist hotels and large food service facilities to rehire the employees who served at that location under the previous management. When a new owner or operator takes over, they will have to offer jobs to the previous employees for a period of 90 days. During that time, they can only terminate workers for just cause.

As a result of this ordinance, hospitality industry employees will have the security of continued employment for a short period of time, during which they could demonstrate to the new employer that they are qualified to do the work required, or find a different job. This would bring much-needed stability to key segments of one of San Francisco’s most important bases of employment.

Summary of San Francisco victories

These days of victory are rare in this new climate of Tea Party anger and corporate attacks on immigrants and unions. We should applaud when the American Dream is advanced in our communities with policies to help workers stay in their homes by getting a raise, keeping their jobs, and achieving healthcare coverage. We in the Labor Movement are proud of our collective bargaining agreements that provide workers with a voice at work. We are also proud that we are now expanding collective bargaining in the legislative and political arena for all workers.