The Board of Supervisors approved a resolution yesterday to raise the funds allotted for nonprofit contractors to the levels enjoyed by for-profit and government workers with the city. This “cost of doing business” increase would mean a raise for nonprofit workers.
Approving the measure, which was introduced by Supervisors Campos and Mar was a tedious process. After deferring the vote, the Board of Supervisors lowered the threshold for approval from a unanimous vote to only requiring six votes in favor. With the approval of seven supervisors last night, the board passed the “cost of doing business” increase for nonprofits in November.
“It should not have been this difficult, but it was,” said Nick Pagoulatos, a legislative aide to Supervisor Eric Mar.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, supervisors Katy Tang, Scott Wiener, Mark Farrell and London Breed opposed the measure in favor of considering funding decisions in the context of an entire city budget. The two-year city budget passed last week already includes a “cost of doing business” increase for nonprofits, but not enough to bring nonprofit workers’ wages up to the level of other city workers.
The funding will come from savings or additional revenue not accounted for by the previous year’s budget. These leftovers can range from $2 to $25 million but are fairly common. The resolution calls for up to $3.4 million, but the exact amount will be determined in November as final budget numbers are confirmed.
“Our office was trying hard to get the cost of doing business included in the actual budget. We’re using this opportunity to state our commitment,” said Carolyn Goossen, a spokesperson for Supervisor David Campos.
Goossen explained that nonprofit agencies are underfunded and that workers are getting “ridiculously low pay.” According to a press release from Campos’ office, low wages have negatively affected mental health, job training and homeless services offered by nonprofits contracting with the city. Meanwhile, for-profit and city contractors have received a “cost of doing business” increase even in times of economic hardship.
Pagoulatos explained that a minimum compensation ordinance mandates the city keep pace with the cost of living and other expenses in San Francisco. The ordinance, however, has a provision allowing the mayor to issue a letter limiting wage increases to the public and private sector, excluding nonprofits. That exception is causing the wage gap between nonprofit and private contractors and “seems like it’s a glaring loophole that we’re planning on closing,” Pagoulatos said.
Nonprofit workers’ unions have been expressing their dismay with unequal levels of funding, protesting at a Board of Supervisors meeting in early July.
“I think everyone values the work that [nonprofits] do and appreciates the work that they do and that they need to be compensated for it,” said Ariana Casanova, the political coordinator for SEIU 1021. She added that “Budgets show where your priorities and some of your values are.”
The next step is to create a legislative framework to guide the application of the funding to ensure nonprofit contractors receiving the funding direct it toward wage increases. Part of the problem with low wages, Pagoulatos said, is that the turnover rate in the nonprofit sector is higher than in others already, and directly related to the fact that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in. Cecille Isidro, also of SEIU 1021, said low wages drive nonprofit workers out of the city, and sometimes drive them out of jobs that they love but are unsustainable.
“If you suppress wages, it’s going to make it harder for people to continue working in their jobs. So this is a way to make sure that people who are doing hard work in critical sectors are compensated fairly,” Pagoulatos said.