NO REAL ANSWERS AT QUESTION TIME
At last week's Board of Supervisors meeting, Mayor Ed Lee showed up for Question Time, that scintillating moment when the city's top-ranking official reads off a written response to a pre-submitted question. Despite knowing in advance that District 1 Sup. Eric Mar would ask him how much he was considering raising the minimum wage, Lee still didn't fully answer.
"Mayor Lee, San Francisco is now the city with the fastest-growing gap between rich and poor ... Some labor groups in the City have proposed to increase the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour," Mar noted, referencing a ballot initiative led by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 to ask voters to approve that increase. "Can you share what level you are currently considering increasing the minimum wage to and how you plan on mitigating impacts on small businesses and nonprofits?"
But Lee did not respond by naming a concrete dollar amount, instead saying he hoped all stakeholders could "work together" to arrive at a mutually agreeable figure. "I am, along with Sup. [Jane] Kim and others, working closely with labor unions, advocates, business leaders, and nonprofit representatives to craft one consensus measure that we can put on the ballot this November," Lee said. "I am completely committed to increasing it this year, and I hope we can all work together to support one consensus measure."
OAKLAND FAST FOOD WORKERS JOIN INTERNATIONAL STRIKE
Hundreds of Bay Area fast food workers joined in protests against McDonald's and other chains that exploit low-paid workers as part of a day of action that spanned 150 US cities and 33 countries across the world.
In Oakland, a march targeted a McDonald's on East 12th Street and a Burger King at 13th and Broadway, among other locations. KFC worker Jose Martinez helped organize a similar march in Oakland last year. Since then, he said, his bosses have shown little inclination to help workers.
"Nothing has changed," Martinez said. "I've been working there four years, and I haven't had a raise — $8.25 is nothing, I can't live on that."
Martinez is a student, and says the pay isn't enough to cover basic needs while he focuses on his studies.
Meanwhile, other workers rely on fast food restaurant jobs to support their families.
"I haven't had a raise in three years," a McDonald's worker who identified herself as Markeisha told us just after she went out on strike from an Oakland McDonald's in December. Markeisha said she's the sole provider for her two children.
Fast food workers also contend they are a vulnerable workforce. Wage theft, low salaries, slashed hours, and punitive measures for speaking out are among the grievances they allege against chains including McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell.
"One thing we found when talking to fast food workers was wage theft issues were high," Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Political Director Chris Daly told the Guardian. "When you're making $8-11 an hour, a couple shifts can be the difference between paying the rent or not."
APPEAL FILED IN SUNDAY METER DEBATE
Transit advocacy groups filed an appeal May 14, challenging a controversial vote by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Board of Directors last month to end paid Sunday meters.
The appeal argues that the paid Sunday meters program was highly beneficial, and charges that the decision to terminate it was made without adequate review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
It was filed by transit groups Livable City, The San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and an individual, Mario Tanev. It will now go to the Board of Supervisors, for a vote to approve or deny review under CEQA.
"The enforcement of parking meters on Sunday in San Francisco has been doing exactly what it was designed to do," the appeal argues, "reduce traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase parking availability, and increase revenues in the City and County of San Francisco."
SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the Guardian, "We'll take a look at the appeal, but it wouldn't be appropriate to comment at this time."
The Sunday meters program brought in $11 million, more than enough to cover proposed programs such as free Muni for seniors and disabilities.
At the meeting where the program was shot down, many seniors told the SFMTA board that the rising cost of living in San Francisco, combined with declining federal assistance and retirement funds, are making it tough to afford basic needs such as transportation on Muni.
CHIU ACCUSES CAMPOS OF STARTING A WAR ON TECH
Speaking to an audience of tech enthusiasts at last week's Share conference, Board of Supervisors President and California Assembly candidate David Chiu aggressively courted votes — by accusing his opponent, Sup. David Campos, of declaring war on the tech sector.
"They are calling for a war on you, even though they don't realize you are addressing our income inequality," Chiu said of Campos and his progressive allies.
Chiu was the only elected official invited to address this $795-per-person conference on the "sharing economy," the term adopted by companies that facilitate peer-to-peer online economic transactions.
Before the session began, meanwhile, a Chiu campaign worker stood outside the conference entrance to hand out photocopies of an anonymous May 11 hit piece, titled "3 Things Every Tech Worker Should Know About Supervisors David Campos."
Also speaking at that session was venture capitalist Ron Conway, a key investor supporting many of these companies and a financial backer of Mayor Ed Lee. Conway's spouse, Gayle, chairs an independent expenditure committee that funded a mailer attacking Campos for voting against the ouster of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in October of 2012. At that time, Mirkarimi faced possible removal for official misconduct, following charges of domestic abuse stemming from an incident in which Mirkarimi grabbed his wife Eliana Lopez's arm and left a bruise. The mailer features a photo depicting the mother of a murder victim killed by a domestic abuser. The vote, legally speaking, was held to decide whether the charges rose to the level of official misconduct.
"For someone who says he tries to bring people together, David Chiu is trying to scare people into thinking there's a war going on. I don't know where that comes from," Campos said in response. "The idea that we have a war on the techies and the tech industry is ridiculous."
Instead, he said he and progressive allies have been trying to address the eviction and displacement crisis that is connected to the tax breaks and other special treatment that Chiu, Mayor Lee, and supporters delivered to tech companies.
"Asking that they pay their fair share doesn't mean we're against them," Campos said. He added: "It seems that David Chiu and Ron Conway are joined at the hip."