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News + PoliticsAnother Breed budget problem: Nonprofit workers are left behind

Another Breed budget problem: Nonprofit workers are left behind

Only tiny increases in pay for front-line people who do a lot of critical social-service jobs.


Another group has come forward to raise serious objections to Mayor London Breed’s budget: A union that represents thousands of workers at nonprofits that get city contracts.

Breed in her budget message talked about cutting city contracts, and plenty of private for-profit corporations make plenty of money from the city, often for work that city employees could do cheaper.

But the city also spends hundreds of millions of dollars paying nonprofit organizations to provide social services, everything from free eviction defense to substance abuse rehabilitation to low-income housing to meals for the unhoused, and a whole lot more.

Mayor Breed’s budget doesn’t address the inequalities of nonprofit workers.

Most of those workers, at organizations like Hamilton Families, Episcopal Community Services, the Housing Rights Committee, the Glide Foundation, Compass Family Services, Community Forward San Francisco (CATS), St Vincent de Paul Society, and others (list from a union press release) make considerably less money than city employees.

That’s been an issue for some time in San Francisco. City contracts overpay for-profit outfits, but underpay nonprofits.

And in this budget, Breed is capping increases in nonprofit contracts at 2.5 percent.

From the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 29, which represents 6,000 workers in Northern California:

While city workers recently won a landmark 13% wage increase over the next three years—in well-deserved recognition of their hard work—the paltry increase to nonprofit organizations’ operating costs underscores how the city undervalues the work of community-based nonprofits.

The proposed budget will only intensify the chronic understaffing that already plagues nonprofits across the city.

“Nonprofit organizations are the reason why the homeless get food, housing and rehabilitation,” OPEIU Local 29 Chief Steward Althea Antoine said. “I feel like a dog who is thrown a bone. Take what you get and be happy.”

Wages for frontline workers have not kept up with inflation, while their workloads have increased dramatically post-pandemic. Dozens of organizations are chronically understaffed, spreading frontline workers thin and cutting essential services to residents who need them most. A failure to invest in proven services and programs that ensure the safety and housing of residents will escalate the current economic crisis, pushing more members of the community into homelessness.

For-profit contractors often bill the city more than $100 an hour for the work their employees do, and in some cases, the price is even higher. Most frontline nonprofit workers make less than a third of that.

But the city budget doesn’t take into account the struggles that these workers are facing.

It’s as if, in the Breed budget, the big out-of-town businesses that make big money off San Francisco are more important than the local workers who are barely getting by.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


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