Small Business Commission may call for task force study of Ammiano
worker health care proposal
By Pat Murphy
December 13, 2005
Business representatives last night derided a worker health care
proposal before the San Francisco Small Business Commission, citing
the proposal as premature.
At its next meeting, the commission will vote whether to ask
a task force be formed to study the issue.
Passage of that request seems certain as commissioners last night
voiced skepticism toward the proposal.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano announced the plan
on November 22, which would require businesses with 20 or more
workers to provide employee health care coverage.
Supervisors Chris Daly, Sophie Maxwell, and Ross Mirkarimi back
the Ammiano measure. A hearing on the issues has not yet been
held by a Board of Supervisors committee.
If the ordinance is approved, some 500 to 800 businesses would
be affected, according to Ammiano's office. The District 9 supervisor
also pointed to a large number of small businesses already providing
The ordinance would affect more than 500 to 800 businesses, a
spokesman for the Golden Gate Restaurant Association said last
night, and could force job cutbacks at businesses currently providing
"Almost all of our members provide their fulltime employees
with health care. Just a quick phone survey shows that the average
is around $225-$235 per employee for medical, vision, and dental.
"The differential between that and the $345
fee to manage the program will cost them more than an additional
"These are the restaurant managers, the restaurant owners
who are doing the right thing currently. They're buying their
medical insurance in the open market at a price far below what
the city and county is proposing, and yet they would be responsible
to spend up to the difference.
"So I think it's real important that we look at not 500
or 600 businesses but, because of the differential in this ordinance,
it will affect thousands of restaurants and thousands of other
"The second thing that we're very concerned with is our
industry is built upon part time employees.
"They go to school, they're graduate students, they're college
students, they're high school students, and they can't afford
to work full time.
"If you position small business to be required to provide
$345 a month health care they will eliminate jobs and consolidate
jobs down to fulltime jobs in order to stay in business.
"The average restaurant, according to a survey which is
published on our website,
makes about four percent profit.
"The average for a good sized restaurant is about $80,000.
This ordinance would cost about $186,000 - they're going to go
"Restaurants are smart. They will do what they have to do
to survive. They will eliminate jobs.
"I think given the crime wave in our city, given the fact
we need employment for our youth, and in trying to encourage families
to stay, every piece of legislation we do should encourage job
growth not discourage it," Westyle suggested.
He urged review of the Public Health Department costs are part
of broader overview.
"One area that has not been talked about is the Department
of Health's budget of more than $1 billion a year to provide health
care to 800,000 San Franciscans.
"We encourage the mayor to follow through and do an audit
of the Department of Public Health and find out how we're spending
existing money before we extract more money from small business,"
A spokesman for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce called
for an all-stakeholder task force.
"We have legislation that lays out a requirement, a mandate,
on all employers of 20 or more employees - small businesses as
well as large - and it puts on a tail-end short study that will
then somehow tell us how to implement this.
"There needs to be a task force formed by the mayor, supervisors,
with members of this commission, with members of the health commission,
with members of local neighborhood business associations, downtown
business associations, and the ethnic chambers of the city,"
Commissioner Michael O'Connor recommended a resolution calling
for a task force be considered at the next commission meeting.