San Jose, CA OKs `Living Wage': $9.50 hr w benefits, $10.75

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 19 Nov 1998 16:45:37 -0400


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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/1998/11/18/MN6380
1.DTL&type=printable
FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - Wednesday, November 18, 1998

       SAN JOSE OK'S "LIVING WAGE" PLAN
       Backers of higher pay cite area's cost of living

       Todd Henneman, Chronicle Staff Writer


       San Jose last night adopted the nation's highest ``living wage'' on
record, ensuring that service workers under new city contracts will be paid
at least $9.50 an hour.

       The City Council's adoption of $9.50 an hour with health benefits
and $10.75 without such benefits is higher than the state's hourly minimum
wage of $5.75, but about $3 an hour less than labor leaders originally
sought.

       More than 370 people packed the council chambers during the
emotional meeting. Critics denounced the policy as ``union driven,'' while
labor advocates said the region's high cost of living requires a high wage.

       Henry Garcia, 46, who repairs portable toilets, said, ``I earn $9 an
hour, and my rent takes most of it.''

       The council voted 7 to 3 in favor of the wage, with Councilwoman
Margie Fernandes absent. In September, the City Council voted 6 to 5 to
approve the concept of a living wage and directed City Manager Regina V.K.
Williams to return with a detailed proposal.

       Councilman David Pandori, who had previously opposed the living
wage, threw his support behind the policy last night.

       ``As I listened to the arguments being made, they started to make
sense,'' Pandori said after the 3 1/2- hour meeting. ``For the businesses
that are in the public sector, it is a fair thing to ask.''

       The living-wage policy, which will apply to approximately 720
workers next year, will cost the city an estimated $350,000 for the rest of
this fiscal year in increased contract costs, new staff for overseeing the
policy, and city employee pay increases, according to the staff report.

       Two measures included in the approved policy attracted additional
criticism from business groups that had previously opposed it.

       An ``employee retention'' provision requires employers with new
contracts worth $50,000 or more to hire the employees of the contractors
that they replace, using seniority when the combined workforces outnumber
the available positions.

       The ``labor peace'' provision requires bidders on contracts
providing important services that could be interrupted by labor unrest to
assure the city that there will be no labor disputes during the contract's
lifetime.

       ``It's clear this is a policy not just about paying people higher
wages. It's about union power,'' said Steve Tedesco, president of the San
Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

       Labor leaders defended the provisions.

       ``We're confident that they're sound and workable policies that will
help working people in this valley,'' said Lisa Hoyos, political director
for the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council.

       ``The issue isn't whether this goes too far, the issue is whether it
goes far enough,'' said Ted Smith, the executive director of the
environmental group Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. ``This is a first
step.''

       San Jose's policy applies to new service contracts for more than
$20,000 or to firms receiving cash grants of $100,000 or more annually from
the city. It also applies to full- and part-time employees who spend at
least 50 percent of their time working on city contracts.

       The policy excludes nonprofit groups and future collective
bargaining agreements that exempt a contract from the living wage
provision. It also would exclude Redevelopment Agency contracts and
franchises such as trash collection, under which services are provided
directly to residents, not to the city.

       The recommendation of $9.50 an hour with health benefits and $10.75
an hour without was based on the federal poverty standard for a family of
three with an additional 45 percent to reflect San Jose's high cost of
living.

       Labor leaders had advocated a minimum of $12.50 an hour with
benefits or $15 an hour without.

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