Chiu vows to enact flex-time law 

click to enlarge Board of Supervisors President David Chiu's legislation would make businesses with 20 or more employees offer flex time to those who are caregivers.
  • Board of Supervisors President David Chiu's legislation would make businesses with 20 or more employees offer flex time to those who are caregivers.

Although Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has abandoned his bid to ask voters to weigh in on making San Francisco businesses offer their employees flexible work schedules, the influential supervisor still vows to successfully enact such a law.

Chiu assured supporters of flexible work schedules that while there will be no ballot initiative, the board will nonetheless approve the mandate in September with the backing of Mayor Ed Lee.

Under Chiu's proposal, business owners would have to establish a process for handling requests for flexible work schedules from employees who are parents or caregivers for spouses or elderly parents.

Such requests could be denied in writing for "good faith" business reasons, such as cases in which it would increase a company's cost of doing business.

Two months ago, Chiu's proposal was blasted by business leaders — both for its substance and also for Chiu's vow to take it to the ballot box. Members of The City's Small Business Commission said resorting to a public vote would create anti-business sentiment by suggesting that the measure couldn't have been worked out at City Hall and that businesses weren't already offering flexible schedules, which many are.

To soften business opposition to his proposal, Chiu made numerous changes, such as restricting it to businesses with 20 or more employees, and not businesses with 10 or more employees, as he had originally proposed. But Tuesday, the last day the board could have placed the measure on November's ballot, Chiu abandoned that course.

"When we started, it was unclear whether we would need a supermajority here at the board, and thus we planned for the ballot," Chiu explained, suggesting it was vulnerable to a possible veto by Lee; a mayoral veto takes eight votes to block. "I want to thank Mayor Lee because, a few days ago, he did indicate that he would sign the version that we have in front of us."

Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey confirmed: "The mayor is supportive of policies that help working families in San Francisco and he will sign this piece of legislation."

Chiu said he did have the required six votes to place the measure on the ballot.

Political observers suggested the legislative process is now a safer route and avoids a potential negative campaign. The proposal is expected to cover about 8 percent of The City's private employers, which employ 76 percent of private-sector employees in The City.

Business leaders have long complained about The City piling on mandates such as more required sick leave and a higher minimum wage than the rest of the country. Currently, business leaders also are embroiled in a heated debate about doing away with the mandates of the local health care law, Healthy San Francisco, as the federal Affordable Care Act is implemented.

Chiu has vowed to gain approval for the legislation when members of the Board of Supervisors return from their summer recess in September, and he has pushed up the effective date of his proposal from July to January.

Of course, in San Francisco politics nothing is guaranteed, especially at the board.

Chiu said should the "unexpected" transpire, "We can consider the June 2014 ballot."

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