On Guard! - Page 2

Lee lets businesses raid health funds, restaurants back Chiu, and Ellison offers a sneak-peek to America's Cup labor standards

Assembling seating for the Oracle OpenWorld concert was a big job but the pay would have been smaller than the legal minimum.

Ellison was named the world's sixth wealthiest individual in a Forbes profile in 2010, with a net worth of $28 billion. His total compensation last year was listed as $70,143,075. That's 3,399 times the amount a person earning $9.92 an hour would make in a year working 40 hours every week — before taxes, of course. (Rebecca Bowe)



The Board of Supervisors approved legislation to close a gaping loophole in the city's landmark Health Security Ordinance on Oct. 4, in the process forcing Mayor Ed Lee to promise his first veto and reveal his allegiance to business interests over labor and consumer groups.

Sup. David Campos sponsored legislation that would prevent SF businesses from pocketing money they are required to set aside for employee health care, seizures that totaled about $50 million last year. These health savings accounts are often used by restaurants who charge their customers a 3-5 percent surcharge, ostensibly for employee health care, instead simply keeping most of the money.

Despite aggressive lobbying against the measure by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce — which went so far as to threaten to withdraw support for Prop. C, the pension reform measure it helped craft with Lee and labor unions — the Board of Supervisors approved the measure on a 6-5 vote on first reading (final approval was expected Oct. 11 after press time).

But then Lee announced that he would veto the measure, claiming it was about "protecting jobs," a stand that was criticized in an Oct. 5 rally on the steps of City Hall featuring labor unions, consumer advocates, and mayoral candidates John Avalos, Leland Yee, Dennis Herrera, and Phil Ting.

Lee and Board President David Chiu — who voted against the Campos legislation, along with Sups. Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, Carmen Chu, and Scott Wiener — have each offered alternative legislation that lets businesses keep the money but make some minor reforms, such as requiring businesses to notify employees that these funds exist.

Both Lee and Chiu talk about seeking "compromise" and "consensus" on the issue, but Campos and his allies say it's simply wrong for businesses to take money that belongs to the employees, to gain a competitive advantage over rivals who actually offer health insurance or pay into the city's Healthy San Francisco program, and to essentially commit fraud against restaurant customers.

"This money belongs to the workers and it's something that consumers are paying for," Campos said. "We have a fundamental disagreement." (Steven T. Jones)



In a press release on Oct. 6, mayoral candidate David Chiu stated his concerns over Mayor Ed Lee's potentially illegal campaign contributions from employees of the GO Lorrie airport shuttle service. That company benefited from a decision by airport officials in September and then offered to reimburse employees for making $500 contributions to Lee, according to a Bay Citizen report.

"These revelations raise deeply troubling questions that merit a full investigation by state authorities. City Hall cannot be for sale. Pay-to-play politics has no place in San Francisco, and will have no place in a Chiu administration — you can count on that," he said in the release.

But has Chiu — one of the top fundraisers in the mayoral field — been engaging in a little pay-to-play of his own? That was the question we had after we saw that he had received lots of donations from restaurant owners, whose side he took last week in opposing Sup. David Campos' legislation to keep them from raiding their employee health care funds.

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