San Francisco pushes gender equality while proposing lower pay for jobs held by women 

San Francisco is encouraging private employers to close the gender gap between men and women — who still earn roughly 84 cents to every male dollar on average — while at the same time proposing pay cuts to jobs predominately held by women.

The City is at odds with its largest public employee union, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, over proposed salary “adjustments” to 16 classes of such workers. Of the 1,452 workers in these jobs, 66 percent are women, according to city data. Many are women of color and many men in these jobs also are nonwhite, union officials say, so any pay cuts erode “pay equity,” hard-won workplace gains made by women and minorities in the 1980s.

Workers doing similar jobs in other Bay Area cities earn 20 percent less than San Francisco workers, regional surveys show.

Future hires in targeted San Francisco positions would earn between 2.5 and 10 percent less than current workers under a city proposal. The lower wages would apply only to those hired after July 1, 2014.

Meanwhile on Monday, mustachioed protesters from SEIU showed up for the announcement of the Gender Equality Challenge, in which the Department on the Status of Women — which was involved in the pay equity fight in the 1980s — kicked off a campaign to encourage more gender equality in private companies with 1,000 or more employees.

A spokeswoman for the Department on the Status of Women said the city agency had no comment on the salary adjustment proposal.

The mustaches were a dig at Mayor Ed Lee, who was scheduled to attend. But Lee was a last-minute no-show; according to his spokeswoman, he was wrapped up in budget meetings.

“If The City is going to challenge the private sector to do the right thing by its female workers, we need to make sure we’re doing the same thing,” said Supervisor David Campos, who added that the union “has a point” in saying the wage adjustments affect mostly women and minorities.

Exact salary savings would be determined by how many current employees retire or otherwise leave their jobs, according to Susan Gard, chief of policy for the Human Resources Department. There are roughly “a few dozen” openings in these jobs every year, for which “hundreds” of people apply, Gard said.

Union officials accused The City of negotiating in bad faith. Larry Bradshaw, SEIU’s vice president, said the union withdrew its wage increase requests in exchange for The City withdrawing its wage cut proposals. Gard staunchly denied the existence of any such quid pro quo agreement.

The City had originally identified more than 40 classes of workers for the wage adjustments. Several job classifications also are due raises under The City’s proposal.

The worker wages are now in the hands of an arbitrator, who is expected to issue a decision by May 1.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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