Sonoma County supervisors to review living wage law

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will finally review the county’s living wage ordinance approved in 2015 at its Oct. 18 meeting. Three fires and a flood since 2017 have delayed a review of the ordinance, something a coalition of labour, environmental, faith-based and community organizations have long called for. The law applies to county workers and employees of large county contractors.

Nationwide, 120 cities and counties have living wage laws in place, including 43 in California. Three cities in Sonoma County, Sebastopol (2003), Sonoma (2004), and Petaluma (2006), have done so. Sonoma County’s existing living wage law is one of the weakest and least comprehensive in California.

Corporate profits have hit record highs while, according to the latest US Census data, wages have stagnated or declined for the bottom 60% of Sonoma County earners since 2000. Meanwhile, the California Housing Corporation reports that rents have increased by 25%, while tenants’ incomes have only increased by 2% per year.

That of the county 2021 Sonoma Snapshot The report recommends that the council overhaul the Living Wage Ordinance to tackle inequality and in-work poverty.

Supporters are urging the council to extend the order to the county’s fairgrounds and airport, increasing the number of covered workers to 1,800.

The council can further improve the quality of employment for workers by offering 12 days of paid sick leave, banning part-time employment by county contractors except in unusual circumstances, and implementing a provision retention for employees of a county contractor whose contract is not renewed.

Additionally, by adopting a proposed responsible bidders provision, the county will ensure that contractors have an excellent record of compliance with applicable federal and state labor laws.

Extending the ordinance to the airport and fairgrounds, ensuring responsible contracts and improving the quality of employment for covered workers will promote racial and gender equity, as employees most affected are workers of color and women.

The county is North Bay’s largest employer and contractor. By revising the ordinance as recommended, the county can become a model for public employment and supervisors can demonstrate their commitment to economic and racial justice.

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Martin J. Bennett is professor emeritus of history at Santa Rosa Junior College and a consultant for UNITE HERE Local 2.

Michael A. Bynum