By Steven T. Jones
In Sacramento, Washingon D.C., and most of the rest of this country, politicians and the electorate shrink in the face of Chamber of Commerce complaints that some regulation or piece of legislation will hurt the economy and cost jobs. It doesn't matter that it often isn't true, or that the benefits outweigh the costs, or that such comments are clearly driven by naked self-interest. The fact is, in this fearful country, it's a tactic that works over and over again. The boy keeps crying wolf and we keep running for cover.
San Francisco is proving to be different. The living wage law passed a couple years ago has proven to be a huge success with little downside and this summer's health care mandate is also filling a troubling void left by the much hallowed market. Next comes a measure by those scrappy and effective activists over at Young Workers United: a measure for the fall ballot requiring employers to provide their workers with paid sick days.
The Chamber is already howling -- surprise, surprise -- but the reality is this measure will be good for both employers and employees, it's almost sure to pass, and it will help boost progressive voting power this November.
The measure would require employers to give employees an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked up to 72 hours -- or nine days -- per year. Advocates commissioned a study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research showing it would cover the roughly 116,000 San Francisco workers who don't get paid sick time, a group that is predominantly women and people of color working at the bottom of the economic scale. And it found that even employers will benefit from the change by having fewer sick workers around the office who aren't terribly productive and pass their germs on to their co-workers. It's the classic win-win even though the Chamber reflexively opposes any and all employer mandates.
Young Voters United, with the support of SEIU 790 and some progressive supervisors, is playing this one perfectly. They brought their measure before the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee yesterday for a hearing, just to be democratic, even though they have decided to take it to the ballot. Why go to voters when they were likely to get board approval? Because they say they'd rather turn this into a full public debate and use the occasion of an election (which polls show is likely to go in their favor) as a chance to educate people and improve the turnout of progressives and young people. Dontcha just love these kids?
BTW, word is that Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin is also hoping to get some progressive measures on the ballot this fall for just that same reason, such as a tenant protection measure and maybe a popular vote of impeaching President Bush, just as Berkeley is doing. Look for all this stuff to come before the board next Tuesday, just over a week before the Aug. 9 deadline for putting things on the ballot, an act that takes just four supevisorial votes.