Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco’s elected officials are currently crafting the annual budget. It is essential that the city create meaningfulemployment opportunities that allow every unemployed and underemployed San Franciscans to strengthen our city.
In the aftermath of the economic crisis our elected officials continue to prioritize the wealthy over the working. Unemployment in San Francisco remains at 7.8% with levels of poverty exceeding 50% in some neighborhoods.Despite this millions in tax breaks have been granted to wealthy San Franciscans while funding for subsidized employment, public employment, and social services has been cut. A lack of economic opportunity continues to drive working class families from the city, destabilize neighborhoods and promote violence in our communities.
It is time we demand sustainable and meaningful job opportunities for every unemployed and underemployed San Franciscan. Tell Mayor Edwin Lee that eviction, incarceration, and gentrification are not solutions to the unemployment problem.
Ensure Sustainable Jobs for Every San Franciscan
Mayor Ed Lee,
As you are crafting this year’s budget we demand that you prioritize people over privilege and create sustainable and meaningful job opportunities for every unemployed and underemployed San Franciscan.
Four years ago, the US suffered its worst economic crises since the Great Depression due to years of political prioritization of the wealthy over the working. The burden of the resulting “Great Recession” has been placed squarely on the backs of working class citizens, eliminating jobs, cutting services, evicting families, and invoking financial distress into dinner table discussions across this city. Today, San Francisco’s unemployment rate remains at 7.8%, with some of San Francisco’s neighborhoods afflicted with poverty rates greater than 50%. As residents, friends, and community based service providers of San Francisco we find it unacceptable to encounter our neighbors striving and failing to find economic opportunities. These individuals share a common desire to find meaningful employment and become productive members of society, if given the opportunity.
If and when the opportunity is denied, the negative effects aren’t isolated to these individuals and their families, but extend to our communities and San Francisco as a whole. Recent data reveals that 59% African Americans and 56% of Hispanics in San Francisco are considered asset poor, meaning that if a sudden loss of income or expense were to occur, these families would be unable to pay for housing, food, and necessities for three months. This financial insecurity contributes to the flight of low and middle income families from San Francisco. The resulting community instability, along with high levels of unemployment, are known predictors for neighborhood violence. Data from the Wraparound Project, a violence prevention program at San Francisco General Hospital, demonstrated that of the violently injured patients at highest risk for reinjury , over 70% were unemployed at the time of injury; those who are injured the inability to find work is significant predictor for reinjury.
San Francisco rightfully spends millions of dollars on violence prevention efforts every year. However, we must recognize that any lasting solution to violence problem must address the structural problems that leave approximately one job opening for every four unemployed individuals.
We feel that your current Job Plan is far from adequate. For working class individuals and families, the private sector has failed in creating sustainable employment. Instead, national data from the month of march reveals slowed job growth, decreases in weekly hours , earnings, and drops in hiring by temporary firms.
It remains clear that any economic plan that aims to serve all San Franciscans must include a robust subsidized and public work program. Subsidized employment programs have proven to be effective in the past. In 2008 the Jobs Now program was launched, creating new government jobs and providing subsidies for local employers to hire new workers. 80% of employers were satisfied with the program. The general public benefited as well, with the San Francisco Human Service Agency recording a 273% increase in the number of people leaving welfare after the program was implemented. The program not only provided economic opportunities for the unemployed but also provided much need work-force support for local small business. It was a win-win situation. Unfortunately, instead of expanding the program to reach unmet need the program has been significantly cut on the pretense of budget shortfalls.
Yet many in the city didn’t feel the pinch from these budget cuts. While the city of San Francisco was cutting jobs for its most vulnerable citizens it was handing out millions in tax breaks to corporations. These types of policies are consistent with national data demonstrating that since the economic crisis 93% of all income gains have gone to the top one-percenters, leaving 99% of the population to share the remaining 7% of income gains. As a result the incomes of San Francisco’s one-percenters have swelled , while low and middle class San Franciscans have been driven from the city.
San Francisco’s widening wealth and opportunity gap is clearly unacceptable. Therefore, we call on the City of San Francisco to expand subsidized employment opportunities to every San Franciscans struggling to find work. Research has demonstrated that both unemployment and a lack of neighborhood cohesion are independent risk factors for violence in communities. Therefore job opportunities that build community have the potential to simultaneously reduce unemployment and violence.
These jobs create a positive ripple effect that extends beyond the employed individual. More than a paycheck, they represent an opportunity for meaningful work, respect from ones community, and the creation of positive role-models for younger generations.
Employment opportunities are an invaluable need for a sizable portion of your constituency, not charity. Therefore, sustainable subsidized employment must have dedicated funding mechanisms. As you craft the city’s budget, we are calling on you to prioritize the working and those seeking to work over the wealthy and make employment for all a reality. The alternative of addressing unemployment through eviction, incarceration, and gentrification will no longer be viewed as a just or acceptable solution.