City College students a step closer to earning SF minimum wage

Shanell Williams

Student workers at City College may soon be paid San Francisco’s minimum wage of $10.55 an hour, thanks to a motion made by Student Trustee Shanell Williams at last night’s college board meeting.

It was Williams’ first night on the job, and she drew cheers from students and faculty when she voiced support for students' fair pay. 

“The (federal) loans for students are set to double in days,” Trustee Chris Jackson told the board and more than 75 meeting attendees gathered at the college’s Ocean Campus. “It’s hard working nine dollars an hour and maintaining residency in San Francisco.”

Francisco employs student workers for a myriad of positions, from clerical workers to advertising agents on the school newspaper. Students are required to be enrolled in at least six credit units in order to enter the college’s work-study program, and must also file an application for federal aid. Notably, San Francisco’s minimum wage is the highest in the country – but according to a recent article in the San Francisco Public Press, it is not widely enforced.

As a state agency housed in state facilities, City College is exempt from the city’s minimum wage ordinance, according to the city’s Office of Standards and Labor Enforcement. The institution is only required to pay its employees the state minimum wage of $8 an hour, though it pays them $9 an hour. 

Williams’ motion came as the college’s Chief Financial Officer, Peter Goldstein, outlined the potential budget future of the school.

“This has been a nightmare of a fiscal year. We're holding onto any balance that we could to end it on a positive side,” he said. 

Goldstein couldn’t provide an exact number on how much a minimum wage increase for student workers would cost the school, but told the Bay Guardian it could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars out of City College’s nearly $200 million budget. At the meeting, Williams was asked where she would draw the money for the wage increase. 

“I would like to amend that our CFO Peter Goldstein analyze the budget, look at consulting, and move that funding to raise student wages,” she said. 

When she met resistance for suggesting that funding be diverted from consulting, and the motion was nearly killed.

Trustee Rafael Mandelman voiced opposition to pulling funding from college consultants, which include public relations and technology professionals. 

“I am relatively supportive of the idea of paying our student workers the city minimum wage,” he said. “But I am not going to vote for that amendment tonight because I want to know how much that will cost. I’m nervous about making a bunch of changes on the spot.”

Student Lalo Gonzalez then addressed the board in public comment, taking aim directly at Mandelman. “Back in November, I passed out signs saying, ‘vote for Mandelman, he'll save City College,’ but you just said you wouldn't vote on raising student minimum wages,” she said. “Who are you trying to save?”

Ultimately, Goldstein was directed to determine the total cost of raising the student minimum wage, and to identify potential places where funding could be diverted from the budget to fund the wage increase. The board will take up the matter again at its next meeting in July. 

The college’s newspaper, The Guardsman, reported on the school’s lack of adherence to the San Francisco minimum wage in 2012. In an article by student reporter Lance Kramer, 21-year-old student Kirk Ireland said he depended on his job as a docent for City College’s Diego Rivera Theater, which houses Diego’s historic painting “Pan-American Unity.” Ireland told Kramer: “I don’t have to go home and I don’t have to commute to a job later at night, so it actually helps a lot. It’s part of my success that I attribute to working on campus.”