By Bob Linscheid, Chamber President and CEO
When it comes to crafting public policy, San Francisco has two worthy traditions. The first is boldness — think same-sex marriage. The second is openness — the Sunshine Ordinance, for instance, requires government to reach “decisions in full view of the public.”
San Francisco works best when the two traditions complement each other: pitch a big idea and then let’s debate. The best policy comes when all sides have a voice in decisions that impact them directly.
Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors jumped at the chance of being bold at the expense of being open.
What’s the fuss? The Board of Supervisors recently approved sweeping new laws that govern how certain employers staff their businesses and set work schedules. The board has gained local and national media attention for this first-of-its kind legislation. Bold, indeed.
Open? Not so much. That’s too bad. San Francisco deserves better.
The new laws were authored by David Chiu, then president of the Board of Supervisors, and Supervisor Eric Mar. Chiu met with diverse stakeholders several times to discuss scheduling practices and hiring procedures when crafting his legislation.
On the other hand, to our knowledge, Mar did not include any businesses that might disagree with his approach in the working group he convened. That’s right. In proposing rules that impact specific employers and their employees, he did not seek any meaningful input from those businesses his legislation targets exclusively.
So we have legislation drafted in large part behind closed doors with last-minute changes that regulates employers who have no idea they are being impacted. These employers need to be represented at the table.
San Francisco, meanwhile, has plenty of examples of good policy created through inclusion and openness. Take Supervisor Jane Kim and Supervisor Malia Cohen’s “ban the box” legislation. This legislation removes the once-popular but employment-killing question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from job applications with private employers.
Kim’s and Cohen’s offices worked alongside the Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders for many months to craft the proposal.
In the end, the business community, led by the chamber, labor advocates and all 11 supervisors supported the legislation.
That’s in sharp contrast with the lack of transparency and inclusivity that led to the passage of this formula retail work schedule legislation.
The good news in all of this is that there’s still time to fix the broken legislation, which does not take effect until July.
The chamber will take the lead role in bringing together members of the business community, labor groups and, of course, our elected representatives to consider amendments that would make these ordinances fairer to employers and employees, allow businesses to continue to hire, while recognizing the need for more predictable work schedules.
We still have time to make this right.
Policies are better when we craft them together.
This article first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.