Mayor’s San Francisco doesn’t work for everyone

San Francisco needs a raise — and a mayor who is committed to the fight against economic inequality. Working families are being pushed out of San Francisco at record rates. Those who remain struggle with an ever-higher cost of living. Mayor Ed Lee’s San Francisco doesn’t work for a lot of us.

That’s why Service Employees International Union Local 1021 filed a ballot initiative last week that seeks to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all San Franciscans by 2017. It’s part of our larger platform to tackle economic inequality in The City. That includes wages, housing, health care and transportation.

It includes fair pay for The City’s own workers and enough staffing to keep San Franciscans healthy and safe. But economic inequality is the defining issue of our time, and it’s bigger than just one labor contract.

The Chamber of Commerce called the wage initiative “unconscionable.” But what’s really unconscionable is the current San Francisco minimum wage of $10.74 — a poverty-level wage that makes it impossible to afford housing in our high-cost region. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in The City today requires a job that pays $29.83 an hour, a new study shows.

San Francisco now has the fastest-rising rate of income inequality in the country. This is a wealthy city. There are, as of 2014, 29 billionaires with homes in San Francisco and many big corporations with huge revenue and profits. The rich are doing fine. We are obligated as a city to support our lower- and middle-income residents, too.

Mayor Lee, where is your action plan to combat inequality? Why hasn’t this become your top priority?

Low-wage workers in San Francisco suffer not only from their inadequate pay, but also from inadequate health care. This includes not just the unemployed and underemployed, but many hourly, nonprofit and public-sector workers.

Since these San Franciscans often lack employer-paid health insurance, they are the most likely to use public hospitals, community clinics and other public-health services. That puts immense pressure on the city workers who provide those services. Nurses, caregivers and 911 dispatchers have all protested unsafe staffing levels and poor management this month.

The nurses reported that there were no shifts in the year 2013 — exactly zero — with adequate numbers of nurses and other caregivers at the San Francisco General Hospital emergency room. On every single shift, The City violated its own safe-staffing guidelines, as well as California’s staffing ratios.

When there aren’t enough caregivers, patients suffer. We’ve seen patients go missing. When there are not enough nursing providers, elderly patients with dementia are sometimes tied up in restraints for hours on end so they don’t fall out of bed.

If you are a typical San Francisco resident heading to San Francisco General in an ambulance, there is a good chance you will be diverted away. In January, the ER was closed to new patients half the time because the hospital does not have the budget for enough beds and staff to meet the needs of our patients.

SEIU Local 1021 is also asking for a pay increase for its own workers — a raise that will help keep up with the cost of living and make up for the deep cuts union members have accepted over the past decade. In tough times, our members gave back. Now that The City is booming and the wealthy are doing better than ever, it’s time for the rest of us to get a chance to catch up. Can’t a city this rich afford to pay its workers enough to live in communities they serve?

Economic inequality is the issue of our times. It is time for City Hall and the mayor to come stand with us in our fight to make San Francisco livable for everyone.

Larry Bradshaw is a San Francisco para-medic and vice president of SEIU Local 1021.op-edOpinionSan Francisco cost of livingSEIU Local 1021union workers

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

Most Read