“¡Aquí! ¡Allá! ¡El pueblo vencerá!”
This morning, chants from members of workers’ rights groups broke through the usual sounds of the 24th Street BART Plaza: Music from passing cars, street vendors chatting, the chugging of a forklift.
The Workers Rights Community Collaborative, made up of seven workers-rights organizations, gathered to celebrate the new citywide $18.07 minimum wage, which goes into effect July 1. The organizations work with the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to ensure every San Francisco worker knows their rights, and what to do if they aren’t respected.
“A right is meaningless if you don’t know you have it,” said Juan Villalvazo, an attorney with La Raza Centro Legal, a group offering free legal assistance to low-income workers and tenants.
Villalvazo, along with others, passed out flyers announcing the new minimum wage in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Chinese.
Each of the event’s speakers was translated into English, Spanish and Chinese.
“This is an improvement for workers, but we must also call on all employers to abide by labor laws and let the increased wages be implemented,” said Yanxiao Tan, a member of the Chinese Progressive Association, in Chinese.
Lucy Avila, 71, has lived in the Mission for 10 years. She’s part of Dolores Street Community Services‘ Collectivo de Mujeres, a labor organization. While she’s happy the city raised the minimum wage, she said, $18.07 is still too low.
“We have children, we have families. Even our families in our home countries ask for money, and we can’t send it because everything here is too expensive,” Avila said.
The city’s Minimum Wage Ordinance, a policy enacted in 2015, requires the minimum wage to increase annually at the same rate as the prices of consumer goods.
But some local business owners think that this policy simply passes the buck to small businesses, who are also struggling to pay rising rent prices.
Maisie Wong has run A.C. Trading Company on Mission Street for 20 years. Storefronts remain empty in the Mission, and Wong thinks raising wages will drive even more small businesses out.
“This is the wrong time to raise wages,” she said. “The city should wait until the economy is better.”
But not all business owners are worried. Becky Tran runs Marbled Mint, an upscale florist on Valencia Street. She says the new wage won’t affect her business, since she already pays her employees more than $18.07.
“I want everyone to make a living wage,” she said.
Reporter: Lana Tleimat, Mission Local, 6/29/2023