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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.

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  1. Great idea. It’s a win-win. You pay people more, people spend more, support other businesses and that spreads. You assist with the quality of life for multiple people in the process. Smart politics.

    1. By that argument, Godzuki, we should pay everyone a million a year and we could all be rich, right?

      Wrong. You haven’t invented a perpetual motion machine, a money printing press or a free lunch. You have just re-invented the Weimar Republic.

    2. With that logic, why not make it $100/hour?

      The best argument to raise the minimum wage is that it drives up the wages for those on the bottom of the income scale. This will lead to less people getting government benefits as their income would be higher.

      Currently, certain folks can make more on Welfare than working. This would help people climb out of Welfare and up the ladder.

      I’m torn on this as I think there should be a place for high school kids to get a job for extra cash and to teach them the value of a buck. They aren’t worth $15/hour and don’t have the commitment of a full time adult supporting a family.

      Can there be a hybrid approach?

      1. You have a good point that there is a moral hazard when the wages are too low – people choose welfare instead of working

        But there is another and preferable solution to that dilemma. Reduce welfare.

  2. This is a half-assed way of doing business. What they appear to be saying is that they’d like to do this but there is no money in the budget to do it. So we will just do it anyway and hope the money appears from somewhere.

    Non-profit workers do not get “ridiculously low pay”. They get the pay those jobs and skills warrant, which is low because the skills aren’t high and because, apparently and weirdly, lots of people want those jobs..

    Can the mayor veto this? That would have been a useful extra piece of information?

    Farrell and Wiener are correct. We should do the budget properly and city-wide, and not have the Supes trying to lard up the budget with these one-off, special-interest payoffs.

      1. Yes. If you knew nothing else about a job other than it paid ten bucks an hour, then the obvious inference is that that job doesn’t required a sophisticated skillset and that the person doing that job lacks the ability, drive and experience to get a higher paid job.

        There might be an exception there for medics and lawyers doing pro bono work, but typically that is just a part-time gig anyway.

        1. I guarantee with that shallow level of analytical skills you could not do what I do. I work in home care part time and adult education for persons with cognitive disabilities. I make about $13 an hour.

          I met a in-home care worker who taught university level linguistics in her home country of Mongolia. Her english, both written and spoken, is excellent.

          If salary or wage reflects skill set, why do teachers today earn less than they did a generation ago when today they work in over crowded classrooms with a much more diverse student body and fewer resources. Their skill sets have to be higher today but they earn less.

          Your analytical skills are sub-par for my $13 hour job. I suspect you also lack the compassion and raw insight in home care and education take.

          It’s a labour of love, that’s why I do it. Not for money, but I do need money live.

          1. You’ll be old one day. Trust me, you want someone with compassion and practical-intelligence working for you. (Even if you disagree with their politics.)

          2. The only reason I know that your job is worth $13 an hour and no more, is because that is what you are paid.

            If you could get $20 an hour doing the exact same work, you would. But nobody will pay you that.

            It’s called price discovery. you can think your skills are worth $100 an hour but the only thing that matters is what someone else is willing to pay you. And that’s $13 an hour.

            Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger.

      2. What Sam/John/Mr. Charisma means is that these people aren’t “value added” (his morally bankrupt phrase). Of course, the fact that non-profits actually do good work, actually contribute to society (as opposed to, say, a greedy landlord) goes over his head. It’s become increasingly clear that right-wing elites want a society where all risk is socialized instead of insured against (“Let them go to the ER if they’re sick”). Who else but the low-paid heroes of non-profits will actually help the seniors, poor kids, homeless, etc,–you know, the former middle class?

        1. I never said there is anything wrong with doing charitable work, although personally i’d prefer to see it performed by charities, churches and voluntary organizations.

          My point was more that the pay rates of anyone offering such services is no less subject to market forces than any other service provider. And that their pay cannot exceed the willingness and ability of the voters and taxpayers to fund them.

    1. hey sam, thanks for the ideas. i’m a tech entrepreneur living in SF and a big fan of capitalism, as it looks like you are. the challenge is, the markets don’t quite operate as freely as we’d hope. for lots of reasons, wealth isn’t trickling down. locally i’m a fan of benioff, and nationally, buffett. social safety nets and livable wages create families that can support themselves, adding revenue to SF through spending. campos and those making $10/hr don’t hold many cards; they are playing the hand they are dealt.