San Francisco Freezes Rent Hikes, Requires Protective Gear for Essential Workers

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed two ordinances Tuesday temporarily banning rent increases and requiring a large portion of essential businesses to provide gloves, masks and other protective gear for workers.

District 1 Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who co-sponsored emergency legislation to freeze rent hikes, said the measure will help protect tenants, some of whom have lost jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, so they are not saddled with higher living expenses during this difficult time.

“Most landlords wouldn’t think about raising rent on their tenants at a time like this,” Fewer said. “We know some might do something like this, so this legislation is necessary to take rent increases off the table.”

The moratorium on rent hikes will apply retroactively to April 7 and expire in 61 days unless re-enacted.

The pause on rent increases follows a March 23 order by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to halt all evictions in the city temporarily. The moratorium on evictions was extended for another two months on April 14.

Another emergency ordinance passed Tuesday requires grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and on-demand delivery providers to supply their workers with protective gear, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant and soap and water.

Though the law was passed without discussion Tuesday, during a Government Audit and Oversight Committee meeting Monday District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney explained why the measure is needed to protect essential workers.

“These folks are still out there regularly interacting with others and putting themselves at risk, and they don’t have the option of staying at home,” Haney said. “We have to make sure these workers and their customers are protected.”

During Monday’s committee meeting, the city’s Office of Small Business director Regina Dick-Endrizzi said many local grocers have had to provide protective gear to gig workers shopping for on-demand service companies such as Instacart.

“Our small businesses should not be subsidizing the paid protective gear for these workers,” Dick-Endrizzi said.

According to Dick-Endrizzi’s office, San Francisco has 625 grocery stores that employ 12,251 workers. Among the 625 grocers, 76% have fewer than 10 employees.

Aside from mandating protective gear for workers, the emergency law also requires on-demand delivery platforms such as Grubhub to offer a “no contact” delivery option for workers and customers. The intent is to minimize the type of close contact that experts say increases the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

The law also requires employers to reimburse workers for any money spent purchasing protective gear and to pay drivers for time spent disinfecting their vehicles or driving to places where they can wash their hands.

Additionally, it forbids employers from firing or threatening to fire, demote or suspend workers for asserting their rights under the emergency law.

The ordinance will expire in 61 days unless reenacted by the Board of Supervisors.

The move to require protective gear for essential workers comes as on-demand delivery companies are facing more pressure to provide such equipment for workers.

In March, Instacart workers organized a nationwide strike calling for sick pay, hazard pay, disinfectant and other gear. On April 2, the San Francisco-based grocery delivery startup said it would start providing health and safety kits to its workers, dubbed “shoppers,” who go to grocery stores, shop for items and deliver them to customers. Several news outlets reported last week that many Instacart shoppers still had not received the promised health and safety kits, which were supposed to include face masks, hand sanitizer and a thermometer.

Instacart reported on April 10 that it has seen a 300% increase in demand for its grocery delivery service compared to the same time last year, and its workforce of shoppers increased from 200,000 to 350,000 within two weeks.

In March, Instacart also expanded its “leave at my door” delivery option to all customers.

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