SAN Francisco workers earning minimum wage will get a reason to celebrate starting July 1, according to the San Francisco Workers Rights Community Collaborative. This is the date when the minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour.
The group organized a press conference last Tuesday, July 27 just outside the storefont of Old Navy in the downtown area near the corner of Market and 4th Streets to drum up awareness of the impending change in the minimum wage for workers in the city.
The SF Workers Rights Community Collaborative is an alliance of several organizations which include the Chinese Progressive Association, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, Dolores Street Community Services Day Laborer Program, La Raza Centro Legal, Filipino Community Center and Young Workers United. Representatives from the aforementioned organizations were present at the presscon, holding bright-colored balloons scribbled with $14.
“San Francisco workers deserve to receive $14 per hour,” declared Lucia Lin of the Chinese Progressive Action. “In these times, it’s more important than ever that we are able to stand together in order to support working families and their abilities to thrive in San Francisco. Our organizations stand ready with workers to ensure that everyone, regardless of immigration status, is able to access their rights to the $14 minimum wage.”
“San Francisco workers deserve to live where they work,” Lin continued. “Although we are excited that we have one of the highest minimum wages in the country, this does not mean anything for the workers if they don’t know about the minimum wage [increase] and they can’t access their rights.”
Evelyn Alfaro of The Women’s Collective Day Laborer Program described herself as emotional and excited over the rise in the minimum wage.
While saying that the increase in the minimum wage will help workers a little bit, Alfaro stated that it is not enough.
“San Francisco is a very expensive city to live in,” she said. “Many have to work multiple jobs and do not spend enough time with their children as they would like to. This will allow them to survive a little bit more. But workers need to have a dignified job and a just wage.”
Alfaro also reminded people that everyone, regardless of status and their work situation, is entitled to the $14 per hour minimum wage starting on July 1st.
“You have a right to ask for it, and you should ask for it,” she emphatically stated. “Whether you are undocumented or not, whether you are a temporary worker or permanent, you have a right to ask for it.”
Tina Shauf-Bajar and AV David of the Filipino Community Center told the Asian Journal that the wage increase was demanded by the community due to the rising costs of living in the city.
Proposition J, according to David, which will eventually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018, was passed by voters in 2014.
“All workers, including Filipino workers regardless of their immigration status, have a right to demand from their employers the minimum wage of $14 per hour starting on July 1,” David said.
She added that “workers should receive the amount they deserve and work for” and that they have seen cases of wage theft. These cases, according to David, continue to be underreported due to workers’ fear of retaliation from their employers and loss of employment.
David said that workers, including those who are undocumented, who feel that their wages are being stolen by their employers or who are not being paid the correct minimum wage should go to the Filipino Community Center or any of the collaborative’s partner organizations to ask for assistance.
“We can give them resources and refer them to legal partners… lawyers who can help them file cases with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement in the city,” she said. “We are here to educate and outreach, and let them know that regardless of their immigration status they can fight for the minimum wage.”
Shauf-Bajar, for her part, told the Asian Journal that their organization has not encountered any stiff opposition to the minimum wage increase in the city from the business sector.
Business owners and employers, Shauf-Bajar disclosed, should have been informed by the city of the change in the minimum wage by now. However, she said, there may still be a need to educate and outreach to both workers and employers about the increase in the minimum wage.
“This is actually good for the economy. An investment in all people of San Francisco, who live in San Francisco, also work in San Francisco is an investment in the entire economy, not just for San Francisco but also the entire Bay Area,” Shauf-Bajar said. “With San Francisco setting the precedent for many other big cities in the US, I believe that San Francisco has a responsibility. Being that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the US, it has a responsibility to take care of its workers, not just what the city believes will be a good investment.”
However, Shauf-Bajar said that the wage increases set forth in Proposition J does not match the rapid rise in cost of living expenses in the Bay Area.
“There is a need for the minimum wage to rise even further, even beyond the fifteen dollars [per hour] that it will increase to next year. It will be the responsibility, not just of the businesses, but of city and government officials to really work together that the rights of all workers are upheld,” she explained.
A UC Berkeley study found that approximately 23% of the workforce in San Francisco will be affected by the minimum wage increase. The study also said that these workers would see their pay rise by an average of $2,800 per year, and that the pay increase would benefit women, working families and workers of color.
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