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Home Featured Minimum pay for nonprofit workers, the mayor’s affordable housing exemptions …

Minimum pay for nonprofit workers, the mayor’s affordable housing exemptions …

... and addressing some shocking allegations of sexual harassment in the Fire Department. That's The Agenda for Oct. 21-28

Assignment to a fire truck is highly coveted -- and one woman alleges created a climate of sexual harassment.

The Board of Supes will consider Tuesday/23 a change to the ordinance that sets minimum wages for workers at nonprofits that get city contracts. It’s a big deal: The city spends hundreds of millions of dollars on year contracting services to nonprofits. Workers at those agencies typically make far less than unionized city employees.

In fact, they make less than workers at private for-profit companies with city contracts; the for-profits (mostly in areas like construction) have to pay at least $17 an hour (and many of them have unionized trades workers).

Assignment to a fire truck is highly coveted — and one woman alleges created a climate of sexual harassment.

Nonprofit workers get only the city’s minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The supes, sitting as a Committee of the Whole, will hear a proposal by Sups. Jane Kim, Sandra Lee Fewer, and Norman Yee to raise the pay of nonprofit workers to $17 an hour by next year and to include and annual cost-of-living increase in those contracts.

What that means, of course, is that the city will have to increase the amount it pays the nonprofits to cover those costs. And if nonprofits increase the pay of other workers to keep pace (so that, for example, a $15-an-hour worker who isn’t doing city contracted work gets the same pay as a $17-and-hour worker who is), the cost could reach $7 million a year, according to the Budget Analyst.

The Controller’s Office says it could be as much as $17 million, under certain circumstances.

But supporters say that people doing the city’s work should be paid enough to live in the city — and even at $17, that’s a stretch.

Negotiations between labor, the Mayor’s Office and the supes are ongoing. “I hope those negotiations lead to something we can all support,” Sup. Rafael Mandelman, who said he would vote for the pay raise, told me.

The supes will also decide whether to follow a committee recommendation and impose strict new rules on massage establishments. The Land Use and Transportation Committee approved the plan by Sup. Katy Tang last week despite opposition from both sex-worker groups and therapeutic massage businesses.

The bill would use land-use regulations to make it harder to open a health-care establishment – in the name of cracking down on sex trafficking. Sex workers argued that all the bill would do is harm workers and therapeutic outlets.

Then there’s a move by Mayor London Breed to allow as many as 33 market-rate housing developments to escape the city’s current requirements for affordable housing.

Breed wants those projects to get an exemption, which would allow as little as 13 percent affordable units, because they were in the permitting process when new higher standards were approved.

Sup. Aaron Peskin raised the issue last week at Question Time. Breed said she would be happy to work with him on individual projects – but the whole package is now before the board.

Among the normally routine items listed on the Tuesday/23 supes agenda is this:

“Settlement of lawsuit, Suzanne Montes, $575,000. … Other terms of the settlement are restoring 384 hours of sick leave with pay and 240 hours of vacation time to employee.”

There are employment disputes all the time in the city; hard to run an operation this size without some. But somehow, this one intrigued me, so I ran the case number through the federal court search system.

Here’s what I learned. It’s shocking.

Montes is a firefighter in San Francisco. She was assigned, according to the lawsuit filed in 2017, to Station 2 and became only the sixth female in department history to serve on a fire truck (a coveted assignment).

From the suit:

Many of her co-workers at Station 2 were opposed to a female being assigned to the position and started a campaign of harassment aimed at forcing Ms. Montes to leave the station. Ms. Montes was ostracized, constantly degraded, and had feces spread in her bathroom. She crawled into bed only to find that one of her co-workers had urinated in her bed.

There’s more.

In January and February 2016, Ms. Montes constantly heard other firefighters in Station 2 openly and enthusiastically refer to her as a “bitch” in conversations with other male firefighters. Despite the open nature of these comments, no officer at Station 2 took any action to discipline those making the comments or to prevent their reoccurrence.

On January 20, 2016, Ms. Montes’ skin lotion was emptied over the counter of the woman’s bathroom, and all the toilet paper was deliberately removed from the stalls and from the cabinets where the extra rolls were normally stored.

On February 5, 2016, feces was spread on the toilet and floor of the women’s bathroom. The probationary firefighter assigned to clean the bathroom that day was instructed not to clean up the mess. No officer at Station 2 took any action regarding this incident.

Ms. Montes filed a formal complaint regarding the harassment on February 12, 2016. The SFFD took no remedial action until it concluded its protracted investigation of the matter on August 31, 2016. At that point the SFFD, despite sustaining most of the allegations Ms. Montes made, placed Ms. Montes on administrative leave, administered no discipline to anyone else involved, and required some employees to receive training eight months later.

If there were no merit to any of these claims, the city wouldn’t be putting out more than half a million of the taxpayers’ money to settle the case. This, needless to say, does not speak well of the culture in the SFFD more than 30 years after women were allowed to become firefighters. (I remember that struggle; the Old Boys Network hated the idea and fought bitterly to keep women out.)

That may be one of the reasons that the Government Audit and Oversight Committee is holding a hearing Thursday/25on allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the Fire Department.

I look forward to hearing from the chief.