Business owners’ influence on employee coverage was limited

Since legislation that would require city businesses to fund employee health care had a super-majority of support on the Board of Supervisors, business owners had little leverage to demand changes — other than Mayor Gavin Newsom’s publicly expressed disapproval of the ordinance.

When Newsom created a blue-ribbon committee to come up with a workable compromise to Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s initial proposal of a flat, per-employee fee of $345 per month for health care, many members of the business community participated. In the end, when Newsom and Ammiano announced the blueprint for the San Francisco Health Access Plan to provide affordable health care for The City’s 82,000 uninsured, those leaders groused about the fact that within the four months of committee meetings there was never a discussion about how much business owners would be expected to contribute to the plan.

In the weeks following, Newsom negotiated with Ammiano to address concerns that the legislation would place an untenable burden on business. Meanwhile, owners of San Francisco restaurants, shops and service providers vigilantly attended Board of Supervisor meetings at which the proposed ordinance was discussed.

The negotiations, for the most part, came to an end when Newsom signaled that he was ready to give his approval to the ordinance.

“It’s still onerous,” said Nathan Nayman, executive director of The Committee on Jobs, a pro-business lobby.

Newsom said he understood that all of the concerns of the business community had not been met, “but that’s the nature of compromise.”

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