Supervisors fight over funding for enforcement of minimum-wage law

A proposed charge on businesses that would fund stepped-up enforcement of The City’s minimum-wage law is not going away so easily.

Last week, in exchange for The City not enacting a fee on businesses for the additional monitoring, Mayor Gavin Newsom said he would add more money in his proposed budget for the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, the city department in charge of minimum-wage

enforcement.

But the deal has met with opposition from the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, which has not supported the use of operating funds to pay for additional OLSE staff. The committee is reviewing Newsom’s proposed $5.7 billion budget plan for the fiscal year 2006-07.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who authored the initial business-fee legislation before agreeing with Newsom to pull back, called on her colleagues at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to support the agreement she struck with Newsom.

“We can be strategic as to when this Board of Supervisors asks the business community to fund new programs,” Maxwell said.

Businesses opposed the fee, saying they already face rising costs, especially those associated with The City’s health care program for uninsured workers proposed by Newsom and Supervisor Tom Ammiano.

If the budget committee on Thursday does not approve Newsom’s recent proposal to spend $430,000 on four new minimum-wage enforcers, then the business fee — a sliding scale that would force the largest businesses to pay $107 a year — may be back on the table.

“This legislation in front of us will do what many of us have been saying needs to be done. That is, make downtown [businesses] pay their fare share. I maintain they do not,” said Supervisor Chris Daly, who chairs the budget committee.

Two years ago, city voters passed a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. The City’s minimum wage is $8.82, and the state’s is $6.75. The OLSE has struggled to keep up with workers’ complaints and enforcement of the law. It is estimated thousands of workers are being underpaid.

IN OTHER ACTION

STYROFOAM BAN: The City may prohibit restaurants, food vendors and city departments from using Styrofoam and other similar plastics, known as polystyrene foam. Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation Tuesday that, on January 1, 2007, would enact a ban on the “notorious pollutant.” San Francisco would join 100 other cities that have already enacted a similar ban. The City of Berkeley banned polystyrene foam in 1990, and last week Oakland followed suit.

SOLAR INVITATION: The world’s largest solar factory, Nanosolar, Inc., of Palo Alto, is being asked to relocate to San Francisco. Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who introduced a resolution encouraging the company to locate to The City, said it would create 200 more jobs and allow The City to reap the benefits of an ever-growing clean technology industry.

BUILDING PURCHASE: The City would no longer lease the eight-story building at One South Van Ness but purchase it for $71.5 million under a resolution submitted by Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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