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Sonoma County Supervisors ADOPT a Living Wage Ordinance 5-0


Sonoma County Supervisors ADOPT a Living Wage Ordinance 5-0

By Vesta Copestakes

As Supervisor Efren Carrillo stated, never has the boardroom been packed out into the hall on the subject of poverty. Not only was the hearing room over-flowing, but people stayed hour after hour until the topic was resolved in a 5-0 vote in favor of Sonoma County adopting a Living Wage ordinance of $15 an hour.

Marty Bennett of North Bay Jobs with JusticeDetails of the ordinance differ from both the proposal submitted by the Living Wage coalition North Bay Jobs with Justice led by Marty Bennett  of Sonoma – as well as the suggested elements provided by Blue Sky Consulting Group who did an impressive job of identifying who would be impacted by this ordinance.

Sonoma County Staff offered options and alternatives which included:

1     putting more effort into the county’s poverty reduction programs

2     adopting the resolution as they drafted it – which increases wages to $13 an hour with taking into consideration benefits which costs $1.50 an hour, bringing the real wage to $11.50 an hour plus benefits

3     Adopting the resolution as proposed with further analysis for potential changes

4     Adopting the resolution with changes in place – or -

5     Accepting updates to poverty reduction and taking no action.

Blue Sky defined all the Poverty Reduction Strategies currently implemented and enhanced by recent program changes so people would be clear what is being done to alleviate the impacts of poverty. But that wasn’t the point of this discussion. The alleviation people want is not more services…it's more money so they don't need to rely upon public services. One of the impacts of higher wages is that some people will no longer qualify for public assistance.  

And another concern is that non-profits that serve the poor might not survive an increase in wages. This was dispelled by several non-profits who stated that they are currently paying $15 an hour and higher and are still in business. In fact, most non-profits pay more then $15 an hour already. But the board felt  that they could not demand non-profits make this change. They would be better off working with them to implement the change in ways that would not detrimental. 

No one in the audience of public comment came forth telling the supervisors to throw out the concept. All were in favor of a Living Wage ordinance and most also supported IHSS workers who are the largest group who would be financially impacted by this ordinance.

In reality – just over 150 county workers would feel the immediate impact of this ordinance. But the impact ripples out to contractors by including the provision in all future contracts as they come up for renewal. Companies who provide a Living Wage for their employees would be chosen over those who do not. This brings the ordinance’s impact out to many times the 150+ people. If the ordinance reaches out to IHSS workers, that number gets into the thousands. 

A Breakdown of the approved ordinance

-      Living Wage increased to $15 an hour for county workers and employees of contractors’ if the firm has 20 more or employees (when the contract is established or renewed).

-      the hourly wage is $15 an hour but if benefits are paid they are taken out of that number not added on to it.

-      There is paid time off

-      The ordinance would not apply to part time or intern workers

Since 140 communities have a adopted a Living Wage ordinance, it was easy to define the successes and failures they experienced. Even in Sonoma County councilmembers testified from Sebastopol, Sonoma and Petaluma that increasing wages has only benefitted the communities rather than harming them. Track records in other cities and states have been impressive but the greatest impact has been how the local economy improves when people have money to spend.

Bottom line is that the Board of Supervisors decided that YES, Sonoma County workers deserve a Living Wage, and YES it will be the $15 an hour minus benefits and YES it’s the fair and moral thing to do. Let’s see how this plays out over time and what impact it has on Sonoma County. Thank you Supervisors.



Here is a LINK to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Meeting Agendas, Minutes & Videos

Sonoma County Needs a Living Wage