One of San Francisco’s finest achievements has been its leadership on wage ordinances. The city’s living wage requirements are better than any other city in the country. The living wage is set at $11.54 per hour. Thus the city formally recognizes the huge problem in our labor markets that many Americans working full time (year long) can no longer earn enough to provide a basic standard of living for themselves and their families. Thus the working poor is a rapidly growing constituency. Thankfully because of San Francisco’s progressive wage policies, our state of affairs is somewhat better than elsewhere in the country.

However, all is not rosy. Things could be better. The living wage applies only to public workers and private workers whose employers have government contracts. This leaves thousands of low skilled workers ineligible for the living wage having only the protection of the minimum wage which is set at $9.79 per hour. This leaves anyone with a family unable to break past the poverty line. Furthermore, the rate remains the same as that established in 2001, not having been adjusted for inflation.

Thus I support two changes to the living wage. Firstly, the minimum wage rate should be increased to the current living wage rate of $11.54 per hour. In this way it would apply to all workers, not just those working under government contract. This would bring individuals and families closer to being able to achieve better than subsistence living.

Secondly, this wage should be indexed to the rising cost of living. This way the wage will not be continuously diminished by inflation, requiring repeated updates. This would serve as a better guarantee of the living wage, protected from political agendas.

To those who will argue that these measures will create unemployment as the result of employer reluctance to hire expensive labor, this has not been bourn out by results. A recent study from UCBerkeley on the implementation of the living wage showed that while 12,000 workers enjoyed hire wages, there was little evidence of job loss. Instead, reported was increased productivity, better service and far lower employee turnover. Most low paid workers in San Francisco are service based and tied to location and so there is little opportunity for relocation to avoid these higher living wages. It is possible that we can reward workers with higher pay without seeing corresponding job loss.

So San Francisco, keep up the good work. Keep rewarding people who work hard and try to close the wage gap between those on the lower and upper rungs on the income ladder.



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