Advocates for higher minimum wage celebrate past success and look ahead


Balloons, snacks, cake, live music, an open wine bar and nearly 100 guests marked a Thu/6 celebration at the Women’s Building in San Francisco's Mission district. You might never guess a party this fun would be held to celebrate the birthday of a city ordinance.

February marks the 10-year anniversary of San Francisco’s minimum wage ordinance, passed by voters in 2003 with Proposition L. The landmark initiative not only raised the minimum wage in San Francisco to $8.50 per hour, but stipulated that the amount would rise every year to reflect inflation. Thanks to Prop. L, San Francisco now boasts the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $10.74.

But being the nation's highest still isn’t enough.

“Who thinks living in San Francisco is really expensive?” asked one of the event organizers and staff member of the Chinese Progressive Association, Shaw San Liu. All hands in the room shot up before the Spanish and Mandarin translators even had a chance to repeat the question.

Raising the minimum wage in San Francisco has been a hot topic recently, and Mayor Ed Lee even endorsed a significant increase back in December. The number that keeps floating around is $15 per hour, but nothing has been set in stone.

In addition to celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the minimum wage ordinance, Thursday’s event was also the official launch of the Campaign for a Fair Economy, a push to support the city’s lowest-paid workers and close the ever-growing wealth gap.

Raising the minimum wage is only part of the campaign, and advocates are also fighting for accountability from large chain businesses, stricter enforcement of existing labor standards, and expanding access to jobs for disadvantaged workers.

“San Francisco has led the way for employment policies in the past,” said Kung Feng, lead organizer for Jobs With Justice, a group that fights for workers’ rights. “We need to continue that.”

To say that San Francisco is leading the way is no understatement. In addition to having the highest minimum wage in the country, SF was also the first place in the U.S. to mandate paid sick leave, and the Health Care Security Ordinance works to guarantee medical benefits for all workers in the city.

Despite San Francisco’s long legacy of championing workers’ rights, there is still a tough battle ahead. Currently, minimum wage in the city automatically goes up every year to match inflation (on Jan. 1, 2014, it rose from $10.55 to $10.74). Any further increase requires voter approval.

While it seems a higher minimum wage does have strong support and has already been endorsed by major political figures, there’s still a powerful lobby against it from some businesses and restaurant associations. Despite the upcoming battle, advocates seemed optimistic.

“Who in here can tell me the significance of the Year of the Horse?” Liu of CPA asked the audience, referring to the ongoing Lunar New Year. A small woman sitting in the front row excitedly responded, “Maa dou gung sing!”

“Success comes in the horse year,” Liu explained. “And this will be a year of success and accomplishments for workers rights in San Francisco.”


less workers earning more. Ed Lee has gotten the key SF unemployment rate down below 5% - a great achievement. Almost everyone knows a big hile in minimum wage kills jobs. We are arguing over by how much.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

Even your golden boy says $15/hr is a good idea. He doesn't believe it's a job killer, and he's all about jobs... right?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

booming. But he will also have to explain why unemployment will grow more rapidly when cycle next turns down.

Or maybe he's just saying that since it will be the voters who will decide and he wants to appear "populist" in order to get re-elected.

Either way, it's a job killer. If not, why not set the minimum wage at $50 an hour? We can all be rich working as janitors, right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

$15/hr minimum wage is popular (and therefore your opinion is so far out of the mainstream that even an anti-labor politician like Ed Lee is forced to pay lip service), and that Ed Lee is not a shoo-in for re-election (otherwise he wouldn't have to appeal to popular measures that he's personally opposed to).

You still cling to counterfactual notions such as the minimum wage being associated with higher unemployment, a link that has not been shown to exist in reality. But, your thinking is somewhat more in line with reality than in the past, so I guess we're making progress.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:44 am

minimum wage $50 an hour? $100 an hour?

No downside, right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 7:56 am

Do you act this way in your daily life, or just here? When your doctor tells you "take this twice a day for 2 weeks," do you tell him, "Oh yeah? Well if this is so great then why can't I just take 28 doses today and the problem should go away instantly?"

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 9:01 am

What we really need is a maximum wage that is some reasonable multiple of the minimum wage.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 10:06 am

FDR proposed a highest marginal income tax rate of 100%. It didn't pass, because Republicans kicked and screamed, so he compromised. The compromise was 94% (if only Democrats could compromise like that these days!). So that was effectively a maximum wage, and it kicked off the biggest period of growth and prosperity America has ever known.

And it makes total sense. When the so-called job creators know that diverting any more money from the company into their own pockets will just go to the government, they'll put that excess money elsewhere -into workers salaries and benefits to attract better employees to gain a competitive edge, or just re-investing into business expansion. If you limit the amount rich people can hoard, then "job creators" might actually start creating jobs again.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 11:12 am

tax rate. The result? Thousands of their best and brightest have moved to London, Brussels and Geneva.4

Real smart idea.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 11:37 am

that can't be tried again and again.

Posted by guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

They had a hard time getting web developers and the such.

They only got Theresa Sparks to work for them even though she was way over qualified because of obvious reasons.

I would agree that CEO's are way way overpaid, legislating values always backfires.

Posted by guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

-just about the only company in Spain doing well now. Worked for a lot of worker-occupied collectivized enterprises in Argentina too.

Worked in the US too. Like I said, best period of growth ever for the whole country.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

to do that because we have the most liquid stock market.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 7:22 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 11:38 am

Most Americans don't get even 3. The experts used to recommend 5. Now they're saying 8. You can make the reductio ad absurdum argument that if more vegetables is better, why not 50 or 100 servings? Asking what level is counterproductive is just demagoguery. I don't know how many servings of vegetables it would take to overdose. I don't really care to argue how many angels fit on the head of a pin either. I'm talking about reality here, and in the real world, all I know is that most people don't get enough.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 9:28 pm

the value that employee generates, and not what that employee thinks he would like to have.

You clearly think a minimum wage is purely a political decision with no real world implications to the businesses that hire workers. That is 100% wrong, bad and dangerous thinking.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 7:21 am

Who decides this? The "market," you say?

Well, in the last 40 years, the United States has become a far wealthier country as a whole. But virtually 100% of the gains in worker productivity have gone to the top 1%.

This means that by the logic of the market, 99% of the American population have contributed NOTHING to the increased GDP of the United States in the last 40 years. This is absurd. This model has failed and we need to try something different.

You don't even have to be a socialist or communist to recognize this. There was a time in capitalist America when growth accrued mainly to the 99% -a time when inequality went down, not up, as the country grew. The country grew stronger and more prosperous during this time. Maybe it's time we looked at some of the policies of that time and tried them again.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 10:17 am

When a boss decides to hire extra staff, he computes the expected added revenues from that extra hire. If it is an extra $10 an hour, then the hire may not make sense if he has to pay more than that. Or he may have to let go some guys he has.

If you want to know the value an employee adds, ask their boss. HE, or she, will know.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 10:48 am

people work for minimum wage.

Posted by guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

Yes, Ed Lee controls the spigots of low interest rate speculative investment capital. That is why he drove housing prices through the roof.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 9:06 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

Despite it being the highest in the nation we're being told it's not enough. So how much IS enough? And why should it be increased beyond the level of inflation? Private sector workers do not receive automatic increases every year.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 6:17 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

if you continue this "I don't tip" nonsense.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

He would probably force workers to pay for the right to a job. Oh, yeah, we already do pay for the right to work via substantial corporate welfare.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 9:07 am

salon. They pay by the hour for the seat.

Lap dancers often pay for the right to try and earn tips, not that you would know about chicks.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

all labor should follow the model of strip joints?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 9:05 am

realized that many self-employed people pay for the right to use a location and earn tips.

But yes, I would like to see more indepedant contractors.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:21 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 12:25 pm
Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:46 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 7:56 am
Posted by Guest III on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

The minimum wage is still 20% less than it was in 1970 when adjusted for inflation.

It's nice to see that some right-wingers are also promoting hikes in the minimum wage, the argument being that low wage earners will no longer need government assistance.

Posted by Sparky on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 10:21 pm

outsourcing, importing, immigration and dollar deflation?

I'm guessing not.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

Absolutely correct.

All those burger-flipping minimum wage jobs at Mickey D's are being shipped overseas to Bangladesh.

Ever notice that every time you order a Super-side-me Mac that the clerk gets on the bullhorn to Dhaka, and a worker there makes your burger for quick/click delivery through a synergized logistics network?

No? I guess you are not very perceptive.

Posted by Sparky on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

Service jobs stay here and get staffed by minimum-wage immigrants

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

we can't all be selling stocks and burgers to each other.

America need to produce products to each other and other nations.

Posted by guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

Start making things.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

Thanks for the tip though.

Posted by guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

And get making

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

"America" is producing "innovative" financial products that comprise 40% of the GDP!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

as these ponzie schemes keep crashing.

- matlock

Posted by guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

According to S&P, finance is about 21% of the economy.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 2:22 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

Many people insist on seeing a little smiley sign next to attempted satire.

Sorry, most of the other Guest(s) were smarter than you on this one.

Posted by Sparky on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:25 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:39 pm
Posted by guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

We all make typos and spelling errors.

What sparky did was use completely the wrong word. He thought the correct phrase was "tenants of wisdom".

That's what makes it so funny. and why he is trying so hard to deflect when really he should just cower and retreat.

Some people just keep digging . .

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

I know. Sparky is such a dufus.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 10:25 am

and then pretended to agree with Sparky that he wasn't a dufus.

Some people are clueless.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 10:51 am

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