SF could have competing minimum wage hikes on November ballot 

click to enlarge Alysabeth Alexander
  • Mike koozmin/The S.f. examiner
  • SEIU Local 1021 member Alysabeth Alexander files the paperwork for a ballot initiative to raise minimum wage in San Francisco to fifteen dollars.
Labor groups, led by San Francisco’s largest public employee union, took the first step Monday toward raising The City’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But by filing paperwork to put the wage increase in front of voters in November, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and others bypassed the Mayor’s Office and Chamber of Commerce, which said they would push forward with their own plan for a wage hike.

San Francisco currently has one of the highest minimum wages in any American city at $10.73 an hour, thanks to a ballot initiative passed in 2003. SeaTac, Wash., home of Seattle’s airport, has a rate of $15 an hour.

That’s the minimum wage sought by fast-food employees and other low-level workers nationwide.

With San Francisco’s cost of living higher than ever, raising the minimum wage and doing so quickly is necessary to relieve the “affordability crisis,” said Alex Tom, an organizer with San Francisco Rising, one of the labor groups behind the Minimum Wage Act of 2014.

To put the measure on the November ballot, organizers need to collect 9,700 valid signatures from registered San Francisco voters by July 7.

If the measure is approved by a simple majority, businesses with 100 or more employees would have to pay workers no less than $13 per hour by 2015 and $15 in 2016.

For businesses with less than 100 employees, the minimum wage would be $13 an hour by next year, $14 in 2016 and $15 in 2017. There is strong momentum nationwide for an increase to the minimum wage, with the push coming from the very top.

President Barack Obama used part of his State of the Union address this year to promote a higher wage floor.

And, the president specifically instructed cities and states to bypass Congress and make the change happen on their own, noted Ken Jacobs, who oversees the Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley.

There is nearly 60 percent support among voters for a $15 minimum wage in San Francisco, according to a March poll sponsored by SEIU and other labor groups.

However, Monday’s move means there could be two minimum wage hikes before voters in November, along with an attendant political battle.

Earlier in the year, Mayor Ed Lee and business leaders both voiced support for raising The City’s minimum wage. An exact figure was not revealed.

A working group, convened by Lee with business leaders and labor participating, would determine that number. Its first meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

Officials with the Chamber of Commerce blasted Monday’s announcement as a “political ploy” that thwarted a civic process of “consensus.”

“It’s unconscionable,” said Jim Lazarus, the chamber’s vice president. “To come up with a number out of thin air. It’s not based on real-world economics.”

Meanwhile, Lee’s push for a “thoughtful” measure will continue, according to spokeswoman Christine Falvey, with the “goal to have something on the [November] ballot.”

$15 in 16

Labor groups are expected to begin gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that would incrementally raise the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15.

$13/hour: By 2015 for all businesses

$14/hour: By 2016 for businesses with less than 100 employees

$15/hour: By 2016 for businesses with more than 100 employees; by 2017 for businesses with less than 100 employees

Source: Minimum Wage Act of 2014

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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