Fighting for a Living Wage

We can improve the lives of the working poor

A local coalition of labor, faith, environmental and community organizations publicly recently unveiled a countywide living wage ordinance and an independent study of its costs and benefits. We plan to propose this ordinance to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors later this fall.

The proposed law will mandate an hourly wage of $15 for all workers employed by the county, county contractors and private employers receiving public subsidies or leasing property from the county. Our ordinance will benefit more than 5,000 low-wage workers, such as park aids, animal-care assistants, security guards and home-care providers. We believe this is a good first step in addressing inequality and working poverty in our county.

Last year, the bottom 41 percent of county households earned less than $50,000, and 28 percent—almost one-third—of county residents were working poor and belonged to a family that earned less than $44,100 a year, according to the report The State of Working Sonoma County 2013. And, as the same report points out, half of the jobs created in our county in the next four years will pay less than $15 an hour.

Our coalition—which includes North Bay Jobs with Justice, the North Bay Labor Council, the North Bay Organizing Project, the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action—believes that the county government can turn us from this race to the bottom by utilizing taxpayer dollars to fund good, family-sustaining jobs here in our community.

More than 140 cities and counties around the country have already implemented living wage ordinances. That includes the cities of Sebastopol (in 2003), Sonoma (2004) and Petaluma (2006). Our county can and should do the same.

That’s why we’re organizing town hall meetings in each supervisor’s district in early October, reaching out to a broad array of constituencies, and planning mass actions later in the fall. Join us.

Visit us at to learn more and endorse our ordinance.

Luis Santoyo-Mejía is lead organizer for North Bay Jobs with Justice.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].

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