After negotiating for two days and into the early morning, San Francisco Supervisors reached a budget agreement giving nonprofit workers a 2% raise. It is their first in five years. Supervisor Jane Kim led the fight for the increases, working in tandem with Supervisor John Avalos. Their zealous advocacy for nonprofit workers was backed by invaluable support from Board President David Chiu. The Supervisors' challenge was finding the money for the increases in a year when the $17 million addback pool was much smaller than in prior years. Kim and her allies could have gone home early by accepting a 1.25% nonprofit raise, but fought to find the additional funds. Meanwhile, while nonprofit workers were at City Hall fighting for every spare dollar, the Bay Guardian editorialized
that $13 million in annual new revenue to the city was a “pittance,” an amount so “paltry” that it “barely counts.” Yet an additional $13 million would mean a lot to nonprofit workers, reflecting the Guardian's disconnection from working people’s needs.
It was quite a scene in the late night and early morning hours at San Francisco City Hall on June 28-29. Exhausted nonprofit workers were joined by equally tired but still committed Supervisors in trying to find the money to get these workers 2% raises, their first raises in five years. State and federal budget cuts left little money for Supervisors to add to the mayor’s budget, and it took a relentless struggle by Supervisors on the Budget Committee to get the necessary funds.
But when the dust cleared around 4:00am on June 29, a progressive budget that granted nonprofit workers a 2% raise was achieved.
Jane Kim’s Leadership
Supervisor Jane Kim’s leadership was key to the budget outcome. Having come from the nonprofit sector, Kim understood that getting a decent raise for nonprofit workers had to be the top addback priority. No matter how long the odds at various points looked, Kim remained firm in insisting on a fair budget for nonprofits.
At 10 pm on June 28, Kim faced a choice. She could call it a night and accept some of her colleagues' proposal to limit the Board's addback to a .5% raise that would start next January. This would effectively give nonprofit workers a 1.25% raise this year. Kim and her allies had wanted nothing less than a 2% raise, but they had been unable to secure this amount after more than a day of nearly nonstop negotiations.
But showing the spirit of determination that Kim often exhibits when times are toughest, she refused to cut a deal at 10pm and go home. Instead, Kim recharged her batteries and continued the fight. By early morning on June 29, Kim had worn down the opposition and got nonprofit workers the money they sought.
Those who have claimed that Kim is not progressive and would not fight for progressive interests should feel pretty foolish. Like her D6 predecessor Chris Daly, Kim is a strategic fighter for working people and proved that by her work on behalf of nonprofit workers in the budget process.
Kudos also go to John Avalos, whose support for nonprofits was also there from the start. Kim and Avalos operated as a team, and I would expect many nonprofit workers to walk precincts for Avalos this fall in appreciation for his efforts. His D11 opponent, SEIU-UHW official Leon Chow, was absent from the budget fight, and may instead rely for support on his union’s new partner
, the California Hospital Association.
(As I wrote in a full article
, SEIU-UHW’s running staffer Leon Chow against Avalos, consistently SEIU Local 1021’s strongest board ally who delivers time and time again for its members, shows SEIU's lack of leadership at the national level)
Board President David Chiu played a critical role in finding the money to make the 2% nonprofit raises possible. Chiu not only repeatedly met with groups, but used his credibility on fiscal issues to establish that the city could afford the 2% hike. Absent Chiu's intervention (he is not on the Budget Committee), it's unlikely the money for the 2% raises would have been found.
While acrimony often prevailed in addback fights in the Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom years, this has not been the case under Mayor Ed Lee. Once again, Lee has shown that his pledge to change the tone at City Hall---which cynics derided---was real.
A $13 Million “Pittance”
Remarkably, the Bay Guardian chose a day when nonprofit workers were desperately struggling to find any spare dollars to editorialize that a ballot measure to gain $13 million in new revenue annually is so “paltry” that the city should “not even bother” to obtain such funds.
$13 million in new revenue each year doesn’t matter? Tell that to the nonprofit workers who would get 3% raises every year if this money were available. As noted above, the entire addback budget was only $17 million this year.
As it now stands, the Mayor’s $13 million revenue measure is slated to go to the affordable housing trust fund. Over thirty years, that means an additional $390 million in funds for affordable housing.
That's great news for those on long affordable housing waiting lists. But that's not how the Bay Guardian sees it. Its editorial tells the low-income people who need affordable housing that $13 million in additional money each year is too “paltry” to even count.
If the Guardian defines "progressives" as those who should not care about an additional $13 million a year for human needs, it’s no wonder Jane Kim has never met their criteria.
As I described last week
, it is obviously better for progressives to get $40 million in new business tax revenue than $13 million. The challenge is winning the larger amount at the ballot against heavily funded opposition, which progressives have a long history of failing to do.
But downplaying the importance of an additional $13 million each and every year is a poor and ultimately reactionary strategy. It joins with anti-government activists who believe that no new revenue makes a difference, while not reducing the political obstacles to the passage of a larger amount.
After all was said and done, San Francisco passed a progressive budget. Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors should be proud of the result.