San Fran Supervisors Vote to Fund Wage Increases for Nonprofit Workers

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July 29, 2014; Mission Local

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (its city council) approved a raise in the funding paid to nonprofit contractors to the same level as that of for-profit city contractors and workers. This increase would mean a raise for nonprofit workers beginning in November, according to the Mission Local website. It was a difficult approval process, which surprised its supporters; the resolution got seven votes, just one more than needed.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that four supervisors opposed the measure because they wanted to limit funding decisions to consideration of the entire city budget. The two-year city budget passed last week already included a “cost of doing business” increase for nonprofits, but not enough to bring nonprofit workers’ wages up to the level of others.

The funding will come from savings or additional revenues not accounted for by the previous year’s budget, which are fairly common and could range from $2 to $25 million. The exact amount will be determined in November as final budget numbers are confirmed, reports the news website.

Supporters of the additional allocation say that nonprofit agencies are underfunded and their workers are getting “ridiculously low pay,” which they say has a negative effect on mental health, job training and homeless services offered by agencies contracting with the city. Meanwhile, they point out that for-profit city contractors have received a “cost of doing business” increase, even in times of economic hardship.

A minimum compensation ordinance requires the city to keep pace with the cost of living and other expenses in San Francisco, but it contains a provision allowing the mayor to limit those wage increases to the public and private sector and exclude nonprofits. That exception is causing the wage gap between nonprofit and private contractors. Unions representing nonprofit workers have been expressing their dismay with unequal levels of funding, protesting at a Board of Supervisors meeting in early July.

The next step is to ensure that nonprofit contractors receiving the funding direct it toward wage increases. Advocates say that low wages lead to a high turnover rate in the nonprofit sector, drive nonprofit workers out of the city (one of the most expensive in the U.S.) and out of jobs that they love but are unsustainable.—Larry Kaplan