An event at the San Francisco Women's Building on Feb. 6 marked the 10-year anniversary of San Francisco's minimum wage ordinance, passed by voters in 2003 with Proposition L. The landmark initiative not only raised the minimum wage in San Francisco to $8.50 per hour, but stipulated that the amount would rise every year to reflect inflation. Thanks to Prop. L, San Francisco now boasts the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $10.74.
But in pricey San Francisco, it still isn't enough.
"Who thinks living in San Francisco is really expensive?" asked one of the event organizers and staff member of the Chinese Progressive Association, Shaw San Liu. All hands in the room shot up before the Spanish and Mandarin translators even had a chance to repeat the question.
Raising the minimum wage in San Francisco has been a hot topic recently, and Mayor Ed Lee even endorsed a significant increase back in December. While a wage of $15 per hour has been floated, nothing has been set in stone.
In addition to celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the minimum wage ordinance, Thursday's event was also the official launch of the Campaign for a Fair Economy, a push to support the city's lowest-paid workers and close the ever-growing wealth gap.
Raising the minimum wage is only part of the campaign, and advocates are also fighting for accountability from large chain businesses, stricter enforcement of existing labor standards, and expanding access to jobs for disadvantaged workers.
"San Francisco has led the way for employment policies in the past," said Kung Feng, lead organizer for Jobs With Justice, which is helping to lead the campaign. "We need to continue that."
Despite San Francisco's long legacy of championing workers' rights, there is still a tough battle ahead. Currently, the minimum wage in the city automatically goes up every year to match inflation (on Jan. 1, 2014, it rose from $10.55 to $10.74). Any further increase requires voter approval.
While it seems a higher minimum wage does have strong support and has already been endorsed by major political figures, there's still a powerful lobby against it from some businesses and restaurant associations.