Ed Lee's Jobs Plan Meets Opposition From Labor Groups

The very beginning of his campaign withstanding, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has been nothing if not consistent. If the mayor's mouth is open, he's probably talking about jobs.

In the months since securing a full term, Lee has gone about enacting many of the business-friendly campaign promises from his 17-Point Jobs Roadmap.

While some of the mayor's moves have been relatively uncontroversial--restocking the city's small business loan fund to the tune of $1 million and talking up the "Made In SF" artisanal manufacturing movement--others have drawn the ire of labor and progressive groups, who accuse Lee of promoting downtown interests at the expense of all others.

The first major fight appears to be brewing over Lee's proposal to amend the city charter empowering the Small Business Commission to have significantly more influence over legislation that may put a damper on employment.

Under the proposed system, a city economist would review all pending bills coming out of the Board of Supervisors for their effect on jobs. If a measure is deemed to decrease employment, it would go before a hearing by the Small Business Commission, which would have the opportunity to submit their own competing, likely more pro-business, version of the legislation.

"This legislation is one, unnecessary; two, unbalanced; and three, divisive," Mike Casey, president of the San Francisco Labor Council--whose executive committee voted unanimously to oppose the legislation--said during today's Rules Committee hearing on the measure.

He and other labor leaders noted that members of the business community have plenty of opportunities to weigh in on legislation it opposes, but Lee's proposal would elevate employers' interests far above those concerning the environment, consumers, public health, or workers. "This legislation gives one stakeholder undue power in the democratic process, which is undemocratic," said Kate Hege of La Raza Centro Legal, which represents day laborers and other immigrants.

The plan's opponents fear it would prevent the city from passing the type of landmark worker and environmental protections that San Francisco has become know for, such as its highest-in-the-country minimum wage ordinance and the Healthy San Francisco universal health care program.

Supporters insist that, because it doesn't apply to measures going before voters, it's just intended to put the brakes on ineffective legislation that kills jobs. "This simply adds one jobs impact hearing to the process," Lee's board liaison Jason Elliott told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pending legislation is already reviewed by both the Small Business Commission and the Office of Economic Analysis; however, under the current system, both bodies merely serve advisory roles and their recommendations are non-binding. The mayor's proposal would give their reports more teeth.

The plan needs to get at least six votes from the Board of Supervisors to make it onto the ballot. The mayor's office hopes to get the measure before voters in June.