Supervisor Ahsha Safai speaks at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF backs off plan to crack down on tech employee cafeterias

Talks on proposal could lead to union representation deal for tech food service workers

Members of the Board of Supervisors backed off a plan Tuesday to require special permits for tech companies to open new employee cafeterias to allow time for promising labor negotiations to continue.

More than a year ago Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced the legislation to outright ban the tech cafeterias in office buildings, but amid opposition scaled back the legislation to require a special permit.

On Tuesday, when the proposal was finally before the board for a vote, Safai sent the legislation back to committee and it will likely not return for reconsideration.

What prompted the move, he said, was progress in labor negotiations. Unite Here Local 2, the labor union that represents the cafeteria employees, the employers of cafeteria workers, such as Guckenheimer, and the tech companies who employ them are reaching agreements that would allow the employees to unionize.

“The Facebooks, the Googles, the Dropbox, the Twitter — the major employers themselves have signaled, and some of them have already signed, “card check” neutrality agreements, which means the entire industry will now change to being represented by organized labor,” Safai told the San Francisco Examiner after the vote.

He called the outcome a “significant byproduct” of the proposal, which was initially touted with co-sponsor Supervisor Aaron Peskin as a way to integrate tech workers in The City and help small businesses.

“We are talking about thousands of employees having no representation,” Safai said. “Now they will. I think that is a significant outcome.”

The proposal was opposed by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which said it was a disincentive for economic growth in the city. Tech cafeterias are a job perk for some business employees.

Safai said that there are 45 such cafeterias in San Francisco, only one of which has its workforce represented by organized labor.

“We’ve been in discussions with various tech companies and their food service subcontractors to ensure that workers have a fair process to organize the union in San Francisco’s tech cafeterias,” Anand Singh, president of Unite Here Local 2, said in a statement to the Examiner. “While we don’t discuss the details of ongoing negotiations, we’re confident that there’s a clear path to make one job enough for tech cafeteria workers, and we thank Supervisors Safaí and Peskin for their leadership in bringing stakeholders together and fighting for the good jobs that working people need to afford to live in San Francisco.”

In other business Tuesday, Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation to provide a preference in The City’s affordable housing lotteries for those tenants displaced by voluntary or mandated capital improvements like seismic upgrades.

Under city law, tenants are entitled to return when the renovations are completed and the work is supposed to take about three months. Tenants do receive relocation assistance.

“But the law also allow landlords to extend that period without a firm time limit and indeed I am seeing any number of cases where this is being exploited really with the intent of having the tenant never return and often it is accompanied by offers of buyouts with threats of long-term displacement,” Peskin said.

The legislation also states that as soon as the capital improvements or rehab work is completed, the landlord must advise the tenant of their right to return. The tenant would have 30-days to accept or reject the offer and then 45 days to move in. The Department of Building Inspection will not sign off on the landlord’s construction work until the landlord provides a tenant with the offer to re-occupy the apartment.

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