City employees decry wage cuts 

click to enlarge Protesters hold up giant cutouts of San Francisco CEOs at a downtown protest highlighting city workers’ demand that wealthy companies pay more in taxes. - JOSEPH SCHELL/SPECIAL TO THE SF EXAMINER
  • Joseph Schell/Special to The SF Examiner
  • Protesters hold up giant cutouts of San Francisco CEOs at a downtown protest highlighting city workers’ demand that wealthy companies pay more in taxes.

The City’s largest union rallied Thursday to build pressure as it negotiates its labor contract with Mayor Ed Lee and fights to influence a proposed business tax overhaul for the November ballot.

Hundreds of city workers turned out at 1 South Van Ness Ave. and Market Street to send a message of opposition to employee concessions and support for increased business taxes from the wealthiest companies.

The City is asking workers to take a 2.7 percent wage cut in the form of seven furlough days, and also pay more for their health benefits.

But leaders of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents about half The City’s 26,000 employees — including nurses, janitors and museum security officers — are denouncing concessions and instead seeking pay raises.

“San Francisco was voted one of the most livable cities in the country,” said Lariza Dudan Cuadra, a single mother who works as a senior community development specialist with the Mayor’s Office of Housing. “For who? Not for me. Not for the working class. Maybe for the 1 percent.”

Cuadra said concessions in recent years have forced her to borrow money from friends and co-workers.

“I make $79,000,” she said. “Half of my salary goes to rent. Need I say more?”

While The City faces a $170 million deficit next fiscal year — and larger ones in subsequent years — labor leaders say workers have stepped up enough in the past and now San Francisco’s wealthiest businesses need to pay more.

A proposed November ballot measure is taking shape that could replace The City’s payroll tax — paid by just 10 percent of San Francisco’s 80,000 businesses — with a gross-receipts tax. While Lee’s support is said to be limited to a revenue-neutral proposal, Local 1021 is calling for one that would increase revenue.

“For the last 10 years, the largest corporations have gotten a tax holiday since the ‘Filthy 52’ sued San Francisco to get rid of our gross-receipts tax system,” former supervisor and local Democratic committee Chairman Aaron Peskin told the workers. “We know that downtown is booming. We know that the economy is rebounding, and we know that it is high time that they pay their fair share so you can get your fair share.”

Yet Lee said he remains committed to reducing labor costs.

“We need our employees to know and understand that The City’s fiscal outlook for the next few years is still projecting significant deficits, and we are going to have to keep working with labor on helping us close the gap,” Lee spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.

The City is negotiating 27 labor contracts that are expiring this year. Talks must conclude by May 15.

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