Current and former San Diego councilmembers gathered in front of city hall Friday morning (February 10) to offer support for an ordinance being introduced by Chris Ward (District 3) that would require recipients of city contracts to ensure equal pay for employees regardless of gender or ethnicity.
"In this fiscal year alone, the city is budgeted to have $613 million in contracts, and our $4 billion capital improvements program has made the City of San Diego the region's largest contractor and employer of consultants and contractors in the region," Ward noted. "We have the power to set the standard for the region in a way that empowers all working people without needing any additional burden for our small businesses."
Center on Policy Initiatives research director Peter Brownell offered Census Bureau data from 2015 to highlight the starkness of the existing pay gap.
"Women here in San Diego are earning 72 cents for each dollar that men earn. And for women of color, they face a particular layer of disadvantage on top of that," according to Brownell's findings. "African-American women earn 50 cents for every dollar that white men earn. Latinas earn 37 cents for every dollar that white men earn."
Ward said that part of the ordinance would require employers to verify a lack of pay disparity for individuals working in similar positions, and to make records of such verification available for the city to audit upon request.
"As we get into the process of writing the exact language, we'll work out the details,” said Ward. “But we expect that the enforcement will be contained within the existing positions that already handle compliance with the equal benefits ordinance, our living-wage ordinance, and our prevailing wage."
Ward was joined by fellow sitting councilmembers Georgette Gomez (District 9) and Barbara Bry (District 1), along with former councilmembers Toni Atkins (who authored the city's living-wage ordinance), and Todd Gloria, who worked to increase the city's minimum wage, a measure he noted passed with 63 percent support in a vote last June.
While specifics on how the law would work have not been laid out, Ward called on the council's rules committee to submit the proposal to the city attorney's office to draft proposed language.
"This is an opportunity for our city to send a clear message about our expectations for those doing business with us, and to get businesses and those working in San Diego a clear standard."
(corrected 2/11, 8:55 a.m.)