Reposted from SFGate.com
So much for Mayor Ed Lee‘s consensus approach.
Preempting the mayor, a group of labor activists led by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 filed documents with city’s Department of Elections on Monday to place a proposal on the November ballot to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour – the highest in the nation.
The group will need to collect at least 9,702 valid signatures by July 7 for the measure to qualify for the November ballot. It expects to get to that number easily as the city struggles with a widening income gap and stratospheric housing costs.
The move by SEIU, the city’s largest public employee union, took Lee by surprise, according to his spokeswoman. The mayor had been working on the issue for months after he said in December that he wanted to increase the minimum wage “significantly.” Lee is convening a group of business, labor and other leaders Thursday to help hammer out his own proposal.
SEIU officials said they weren’t invited to the table, although Lee’s administration insists that they were – and are still welcome.
“I don’t recall anyone from the Ed Lee administration or the Chamber of Commerce reaching out to SEIU Local 1021,” said former Supervisor Chris Daly, political director for the union. “We’re happy to reach out and talk to anybody who wants to talk to us.”
Still, trying to qualify their own measure for the ballot was not about a perceived snub but was part of the union’s broader campaign to raise the minimum wage around the country, Daly said.
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said it was “outraged by the preemptive minimum wage ballot measure” designed by SEIU and its allies.
The proposal “flies in the face of collaboration and partnership,” chamber President and CEO Bob Linscheid said in a statement. “This initiative is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to influence the outcome of the consensus-building process that will begin this week under the leadership of Mayor Ed Lee.”
Daly scoffed at that, noting that Linscheid and others hadn’t even seen specifics of the proposal.
“We’ve been working on this measure for months and months,” Daly said. “As far as they know, we’ve addressed every one of their concerns.”
Under SEIU’s proposal, companies with more than 100 employees would have until 2016 to raise wages to $15 an hour. They must lift base wages to $13 an hour by January, the proposal says. The measure would cover all part-time, temporary and contract employees.
Businesses with fewer than 100 employees would have until 2017 to lift wages to $15 an hour. But they must raise wages to $13 an hour by 2015 and $14 by 2016, according to the proposal.
The city’s minimum wage is currently $10.74 and indexed annually to inflation.
“I think there are some valid arguments on the small-business side on time frame, and that’s why we have a three-year phase in,” Daly said. “As bad as any small-business owner may be struggling … those challenges pale in comparison to a low-wage worker in the kitchen or doing janitorial work trying to make the rent and raise their kids.”
Lee is still moving ahead with his own ballot measure for November, including meeting with dozens of business, labor and nonprofit leaders Thursday and again April 24 to get input, said the mayor’s spokeswoman, Christine Falvey.
“It’s very well known that the mayor’s approach is to do things with people,” Falvey said, “not to them.”