It was a lively scene on the steps of City Hall Aug. 2, as back-to-back press events featured live performances, lots of cheering, and support for new legislation that supporters hope will benefit low-wage workers, small businesses, and musicians.
Spirits were high at the Progressive Workers' Alliance (PWA) rally, as organizers anticipated strong support for an ordinance they helped craft which aims to prevent wage theft by strengthening the powers of the city's Office of Labor Standards & Enforcement (OLSE).
The Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance would double fees for employers who retaliate against employees seeking to have labor laws enforced, impose a timeline in which employee complaints must be addressed, and create new penalties for employers who fail to adhere to local labor standards. During the rally, workers speaking in various languages described their experiences of working long hours without receiving minimum wage or overtime pay.
Organized under PWA as part of a number of organizations including the Chinese Progressive Association, Young Workers United, the Filipino Community Center, the San Francisco Day Laborer's Program, and others, the crowd of PWA members crammed into the Board Chambers and exploded into applause when the board voted unanimously to pass the ordinance on first reading.
Following a noon rally, youth with the Chinese Progressive Association's high school program treated supporters and members of the press to a dance performance.
Directly afterward, District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi appeared at the podium to drum up support for legislation he'd proposed to create a more affordable permit for cafes and restaurants wishing to host live performances in their establishments. He described it as a business-friendly idea that could "put musicians to work," adding that more music in smaller venues could help dispel the notion that San Francsico isn't as supportive of the arts as Chicago, Boston, New York, or even Paris. A preliminary survey found that some 700 restaurants could benefit from having access to less expensive live performance permits, he said.
Supervisors showed unanimous support for Mirkarimi's idea, but Sups. David Chiu and Mark Farrell each added amendments to ensure that live performances couldn't go past 10 p.m. in certain neighborhoods in their districts.
Mirkarimi invited Jazz Mafia to play a tune before the board meeting started. Here's what they sounded like.
Videos by Rebecca Bowe