Dec. 16, 2014
Stacey Hendler Ross: 408.606.2061
Khanh Weinberg: 408.921.0098
Santa Clara County Supervisors Adopt Comprehensive Living Wage Ordinance
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Responding to a raging economic divide that has left one in three Santa Clara County residents struggling to get by, the Board of Supervisors today passed ground-breaking living wage legislation to help low-wage workers reach economic dignity in Silicon Valley.
With a provision emphasizing fair work week with flexible, predictable scheduling – the first of its kind in a living wage law – Santa Clara County’s ordinance, led by Supervisors Ken Yeager and Dave Cortese, also addresses health and retirement, paid sick leave; and a voice on the job without fear of retaliation.
A report titled “Setting Job Standards for a New Economy: An Innovative Living Wage for Silicon Valley,” lays out elements that are included in the local legislation. The report was written by Working Partnerships USA.
“In the past 20 years, over 140 local governments around the country have adopted living wage ordinances,” said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of WPUSA. “What’s new about ours is that it takes the best practices and wraps them into one comprehensive framework for using taxpayer money to create good jobs that pull workers and their families out of poverty.”
Santa Clara County’s living wage ordinance sets pay at $19.06 an hour for the workers of for-profit employers who contract with the County. Approximately $2.5 billion in County contracts will be affected. The ordinance applies to new contracts as of July 1, 2015, between Santa Clara County and for-profit entities.
“As the primary provider of safety net services, the county has both a moral and a financial incentive to do what we can to promote fair pay for hard work,” said Supervisor Yeager.
Contracts with community-based nonprofits would be exempt from the requirement until a Living Wage policy unique to nonprofits can be created with input from stakeholders.
“We are showing Silicon Valley that government can lead the way to lift working families toward self-sufficiency through jobs that pay a living wage, and perhaps even a little retirement security,” said Luisa Blue, Chief Elected Officer of SEIU Local 521. The union, together with more than a dozen community organizations, collaborated with Working Partnerships to push for a living wage. For more information on the campaign, visit: www.svlivingwage.com
In the next six months, county administrators will review contracts and assess the costs of implementation and to enforce the living wage ordinance and make recommendations as part of the mid-year budget process.
The ordinance also will allow an employer to contribute up to $4 of the $19.06 hourly wage to health coverage or retirement benefit.
The ordinance also requires employers to give workers at least one hour of sick leave per 20 hours worked, or up to 12 days a year, for themselves or to care for a family member and to receive up to 5 paid days off for jury duty.
With the tech industry booming and the economy rapidly recovering, the average low-wage worker in Santa Clara County is falling further behind. Many who make minimum wage, or just above, struggle to make ends meet in Silicon Valley where the cost of living continues to soar. A living wage, by comparison, is a standard, not a floor, for what workers must earn to be self-sufficient.
“This is a monumental win for working families in our community,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council. “This legislation should serve as an example of how all employers in Silicon Valley should treat their workers.”
The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide. SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit www.seiu521.org.