What Is A Living Wage for Sonoma County?

 by Martin J. Bennett
The Press Democrat
December 31, 2017

Last year, California became the first state to approve a $15-an-hour minimum wage. This minimum wage phases in over seven years: on January 1st of 2018, it will rise to $11.00 an hour for large employers and $10.50 an hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

In addition, nearly two-dozen California cities have approved $15 an hour minimum wage laws that phase-in more quickly—San Francisco by 2018, San Jose by 2019, and Los Angeles by 2020.

Today the minimum wage is not a living or self-sufficiency wage, and the difference between the two is often misunderstood. California first enacted a minimum wage in 1916, along with 9 other states, and the federal government did so in 1938. The purpose of minimum wage laws was to create a wage floor that provides an adequate standard of living for all workers.

In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt declared: “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level—I mean the wages of decent living.”


North Bay Jobs with Justice Supporters:
Clean Up and Recovery from the fires is now underway, but the need is still great. We continue to list here some resources for those who suffered losses from the fires, plus some ways to contribute for the continuing needs of the fires' victims.
NBJwJ is committed to ensuring that our community's recovery is a just and sustainable one for all workers affected by the fires, especially the many undocumented workers who will be unable to apply for resources. To that end, we joined with NBOP and the Graton Day Labor Center to establish UNDOCUFUND.ORG to raise funds for this vulnerable group of workers. Please consider giving generously to these funding sources:



 1. Undocufund.org : In addition to partnering with the local labor councils, North Bay Jobs with Justice is partnering with the Graton Day Labor Center and the North Bay Organizing Project to start a fund with Grant Makers for Immigrants and Refugees to support undocumented children, families and community that have also lost either their homes or places of work. Undocumented families cannot apply for FEMA or unemployment, and our hope is to provide them with the ability to recover and rebuild with the rest of our community. Donate here online: UndocuFund.org or send a check to: UndocuFund c/o GCIR, P.O. Box 1100, Sebastopol, California 95473-1100

If you or someone you know could benefit from this fund, please go to Undocufund.org for information. Or contact: Omar Medina at omedina@undocufund.org


 2. The North Bay Labor Council is partnering with the Solano Labor Council to collect donations in their disaster relief fund. This fund will specifically help workers who lost their homes or their workplaces. Donate online here: http://nbclc.activistcentral.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=3

 Or if you’d rather donate by mail make a check out to: NBLC Member Disaster Relief Fund and please send it to: NBLC, 2525 Cleveland Ave. Suite A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

If you are a union member and have been personally affected please let your union know or Maddy Hirshfield from the North Bay Labor Council at mhirshfield_nblc@att.net



If you need things, or if you have a home or other things to donate and offer please register it on these two websites. All donations will eventually be used in the aftermath and are still needed. Register what you have, look to see if a specific shelter is asking for something, and the Salvation Army is always taking clothes to later disperse.

 Also, if you are on Facebook the group Sonoma County Fire: Community Response is a great place to see up-to-date needs and pose specific questions, to hear about what restaurants are giving free meals, which childcare places are offering free childcare, etc.



Bay Area Legal Aid has a legal advice line for people affected by the fire. Services are free to those who qualify and interpreters are provided if needed. Please share this with anyone who might benefit.

The Disaster Relief Line is: 800-551-5554. The message callers will hear is as follows: "Thank you for calling Bay Area Legal Aid's Legal Advice Line. If you have been affected by the Northern California fires, please press 7 now."

Callers may get help in the following areas:

  1. Connect clients with local resources.
  2. Advise on emergency CalFresh and Medi-Cal.
  3. Advise and represent on medical debt incurred for out of network ER visits and other health coverage issues.
  4. Connect clients with statewide pro bono assistance.
  5. Advise on FEMA claims process.
  6. Housing resources.


Immigration Clinics

Many had to evacuate without a chance to grab important documents, and this impacts the undocumented community especially hard because it often times is the difference between having a home and an income or not. In the aftermath we will be partnering with the Immigration Lawyers Guild, VIDAS, and the Graton Day Labor Center to hold clinics for undocumented families to make a plan for how they can recover or regain documents needed to live.


Rapid Response

The Rapid Response Network was launched on Wednesday, November 8th by the North Bay Organizing Project and the large coalition of organizations across Sonoma and Napa that worked together to develop the program. Please follow us on facebook at North Bay Rapid Response Network where you can also find more information about trainings to become a legal observer in event of an ICE action. The 24-hr hotline number is: 707-800-4544


Affordable Housing & Price Gouging 

In the urgency for housing for all the families who have lost theirs we cannot lose sight of the need to have housing that’s accessible and affordable for our community. The rebuilding and recovering of a community after a natural disaster should have the voices of most affected and disenfranchised families and people at the forefront and we plan to work with groups already taking on housing like the North Bay Organizing Project to ensure we rebuild our community stronger so people can stay and afford their rents and homes and still have money to rebuild their lives. We believe one of the first most crucial steps our elected officials can take is to implement a rent freeze for the next year, particularly having already seen rampant price gouging from hotels, landlords and developers. If you or someone you know has witnessed goods/services increasing in the wake of these fires please go to the County of Sonoma's website to report this. Supervisor Hopkins has committed that anyone caught price gouging will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. 


We hope this information was helpful. We know there is so much more, and as more comes out we will have it available on our facebook page as well, North Bay Jobs with Justice.

Please stay safe. We are here with you now, busy every hour making sure our community has what it needs, and we’ll be here with you as we rebuild together.

North Bay Jobs with Justice

Immigrant families seek help after fires
The Press Democrat
November 12, 2017

Cristalyn Robles and her family hurried in the early hours of the firestorm last month, loading four clients into wheelchairs as wind-driven flames roared toward the Larkfield assisted living facility where the immigrant family lived and worked.

As embers rained down on the darkened street near Cardinal Newman High School, Robles, her mother, her husband, Charlie, and their 7-year-old son ran to safety, each pushing a wheelchair holding the residents in their care.

“My son was crying, ‘Mommy, Mommy, I can’t see.’ I told my son, ‘You have to be brave. You have to get Maria out of here,’” Robles, 40, said.

Her mother, Alicia Tanael, 65, waved down a pair of motorists passing by and loaded the clients into their vans.

“It was very fast. All that came to mind was to get our residents out,” Robles said, recounting their escape from the Tubbs fire that destroyed the assisted living facility on Ursuline Road, leaving the family jobless and without a home. Grateful relatives of those who the family saved have started a GoFundMe page to help with their recovery.

On Saturday, Robles and her family, who currently are sleeping in her brother’s living room, stopped by the Roseland Village Neighborhood Center on Sebastopol Road, where local organizations were providing financial assistance for undocumented families impacted by the Sonoma County wildfires. Dozens of families already were lined up when the doors opened at 10 a.m.



From Sonoma County Ashes, a fund for Undocumented Immigrants Rises

By Leilani Clark
Civil Eats
November 27, 2017

Like many who awoke to the smell of smoke in the early hours of October 9th, Agustin Vivienda and his family raced out of their home and tumbled into the family car. As flames streamed into their neighbor’s backyard, Vivienda’s wife had just enough time to toss the children’s U.S. birth certificates and other important documents into a bag; Agustin grabbed the family’s two Chihuahuas.

While the family fled to the nearby town of Windsor, the rental they had just moved into—at $1,850 per month, a bargain in pricey Sonoma County—burned to the ground. Their home was one of over 4,600 destroyed by the Tubbs Fire, the most devastating wildfire in California history.

And now, Vivienda—along with an estimated 38,500 other undocumented residents who have made homes in Sonoma County—finds himself back at square one: In addition to his home and belongings, the 45-year-old construction worker also lost his tools and his work truck in the fire.

“It takes tools to make money to support my family and it takes money to buy my tools,” says Vivienda. “Even though I would like my own place to live, this is my main priority so I can go back to work full-time.”



Up with Trash!

By Leilani Clark
Made Local Magazine
September/October 2017

Teamsters, labor leaders, and environmentalists unite to demand local waste management companies make a commitment to living wage jobs, worker safety, and environmentally friendly practices.

Twenty-seven years ago—at the urging of his brothers who had found jobs with a local waste management company— Patricio Estupiñan immigrated from his hometown in Central Mexico to Sonoma County. Within no time, he was hired to drive a garbage truck. When the company eventually sold to the Ratto Group, a subsidiary of North Bay Corporation, the county’s largest waste hauler with service to eight of nine cities, Estupiñan, now married with two children, was earning $24.70 an hour with benefits. 

After the sale, things deteriorated. First, Estupiñan’s hourly wage was cut by one dollar, a loss that he calculates cost him thousands of dollars a year. Then, he realized he was being paid more than the employees who were already with the Ratto Group, and they grumbled about rarely receiving raises. The two-tier wage system bothered him. Why should two people do the same amount of work and not receive similar pay? 

“Three or four drivers tried to do something about it and got fired,” he tells me over coffee on a Saturday afternoon in Roseland. “[The management] told people, ‘If you want a raise, there’s the door.’” 

Arriba la basura
Por Leilani Clark
Made Local Magazine
Septiembre/octubre 2017


Los Teamsters, líderes laborales y ambientalistas se unen para exigir que las empresas locales de manejo de desechos se comprometan a ofrecer trabajos con salarios dignos, salvaguardar la seguridad de sus trabajadores e implementar prácticas respetuosas del medio ambiente.


Hace veintisiete años, a instancia de sus hermanos que habían encontrado trabajo con una compañía local de manejo de desechos, Patricio Estupiñan emigró de su ciudad natal en el centro de México al Condado de Sonoma. En poco tiempo, fue contratado para conducir un camión de basura. Cuando la compañía finalmente fue vendida al Grupo Ratto, una subsidiaria de North Bay Corporation, el mayor transportista de desechos del condado con servicio a ocho de las nueve ciudades, Estupiñan, ahora casado y con dos hijos, ganaba $24.70 por hora con beneficios.


Después de la venta, las cosas empeoraron. Primero, el salario por hora de Estupiñan se redujo en un dólar, una pérdida que calcula le costó miles de dólares al año. En seguida, se dio cuenta que le pagaban más que a los empleados que ya trabajaban para el Grupo Ratto, y que se quejaban por recibir aumentos muy de vez en cuando. El sistema salarial de dos niveles le molestaba. ¿Por qué dos personas que trabajan lo mismo no reciben un salario similar?


“Tres o cuatro conductores intentaron hacer algo al respecto y fueron despedidos”, me dice tomando café un sábado por la tarde en Roseland. “[La gerencia] le dijo a la gente: ‘Si quieren un aumento, ahí está la puerta’”.


Close to Home: A local good news story for Labor Day

By Ofelia Cardenas and Juanita Galipo
The Press Democrat
September 3, 2017

We work as a housekeeper and banquet server, respectively, at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek hotel in Santa Rosa. We are both mothers and Santa Rosa residents.

This Labor Day, we are celebrating a victory that will immediately benefit us and about 50 of our coworkers at the Hyatt, but which we hope will spread to hospitality workers throughout the North Bay.

 Last month, together with a majority of our coworkers, we chose to join a union, and management respected our choice. That may sound like an unremarkable series of events, but in fact it is extraordinary. Most of the time, when workers try to organize a union, they face vicious resistance from their employer. The path to unionization winds through a minefield of intimidation and retaliation, and many workers who set out down that path never make it, either because they get fired or because the entire organizing campaign is defeated.