The Raise the Wage Coalition has scored its first victory in San Mateo County. On August 15, by a 4-1 vote, the San Mateo City Council adopted the first minimum wage increase in the County. Low-wage workers will see their wages go up to $12 dollars starting in January 2017, $13.50 in 2018, and $15 in 2019. Subsequent annual increases will be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area region. Nonprofits will have an extra year to adjust to the changes.
But the adoption of a higher minimum wage was not the only victory for San Mateo working families. The Council also voted to move ahead toward adoption of a commercial linkage fee to raise revenues for affordable housing development. The ordinance includes an incentive for developers to pay area standard wages to construction workers. The second reading of the ordinance is planned for September 6, and if adopted, the City will be able to collect close to $3 million dollars for the development of affordable housing. Foster City also had its first study session on the impact fees and their process is moving forward.
And if adopting a higher minimum wage and raising affordable housing funds were not enough items for one night, the Council took on the discussion of renters’ protections. The San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR) has been lobbying the Council to derail, delay, or entirely stop the rent stabilization ballot initiative that was put on the ballot by San Mateo residents, who collected close to 11,000 signatures. But SAMCAR failed once again. The Council voted 3-1-1 to not write an opposition argument on the ballot initiative and to allow the democratic process takes its course.
Activists, some who stayed past midnight, left the chamber with big smiles on their faces. It is not often that we get to celebrate so many victories in one single night. What is even more promising is that San Mateo is just the start. Labor and community-based organizations will continue to move a progressive multi-issue agenda across the county. The affordability crisis is energizing progressive organizations to work together strategically to improve the standard of living for all working families, and we are excited about all of the opportunities on the horizon.