Small business owners return
Ammiano confrontational approach
to worker health care coverage
Andrew Gillen, owner of Q Restaurant, quotes Matt Gonzalez
as saying there are too many restaurants in San Francisco.
By Pat Murphy
January 10, 2006
A unanimous procession of small business owners last night seemed
uncertain whether to laugh or cry over their latest pigeonhole
as society's bankrollers.
For the most part, they laughed in anguish.
The broader issue of how to achieve universal health care had
brought them before the San Francisco Small Business Commission.
Their immediate issue arose from federal, state, and city government
inability or unwillingness to pay for health care as a universal
right. And one local legislator's attempt to expand the number
of workers covered whose need is immediate and sometimes desperate.
Locally, thousands of San Franciscans - who work - are without
company health insurance, although medical care is guaranteed
to all in San Francisco through the city's
$1.1 billion public health system.
Public health care, already driving the city budget, remains
inadequate to timely full-service care provided by private insurers.
In effect, Supervisor
Tom Ammiano set out to fast-forward passed fractious governmental
inertia on universal need by turning to the only other funder
around - the private sector. Specifically, he turned to San Francisco
small business owners.
In turn, they laughed last night at the absurdity of their predicament
- local lightweights called upon to lift a heavy duty national
"I remember when I was talking to Matt Gonzalez, who I supported
for mayor, about the minimum wage issue," related Andrew
Gillen, owner of Q Restaurant at 225 Clement Street.
"I said, 'Matt, you know, I pay all my cooks more than the
"And his response was, 'Listen, either raise your prices
or go out of business - there're too many restaurants in San Francisco,"
"We have 27 employees. I think it comes out to be about
$127,000 it would cost us to implement this which is the difference
of what we cover now and would be way more money than we've ever
"I'm a working chef. I worked my way up. I've been in the
business for 27 years. We robbed Peter to pay Paul for the first
and that's not uncommon.
"That's not uncommon. That is the kind of restaurant that
the city is named for. The kind of neighborhood restaurants that
are creative. The kind of restaurants the people love, and that's
one of the reasons that we are famous," said Gillen.
All speakers said no, as did the full seven-member commission
by unanimous vote.
"I think we should send this back to him. And tell him to
shove it," concluded Commissioner Dr. Raye Richardson.
Commissioner Dr. Raye Richardson (right)
Ammiano, by his exclusion of the business community in drafting
the legislation, set up acrimony and confrontation from a community
heavily favoring universal health care.
"This is a problem we can really solve here," Commissioner
Jordanna Thigpen said. "And this is not a problem that the
Board of Supervisors can solve."
Commissioner Jordanna Thigpen (left)
"Health Care is a right, it's not a privilege," she
"But this is a task that only the federal government can
The commission will consider at its next meeting a resolution
asking that broad-based Task
Force on the issue be established.