The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved an ordinance during its April 26 meeting to amend the City of Santa Monica’s Living Wage Law to require its contractors to not only provide a living wage, but also to “provide the same health care and other benefits to workers’ same sex spouses and domestic partners as are provided to other workers’ spouses.”
The council also directed staff to make a review of the groups exempt from the Living Wage Law, specifically City grantees, nonprofit corporations, and corporations providing banking services. Through this direction, the council hoped to gain insight as to how the exemptions applied to the Living Wage Law versus the Equal Benefits Ordinance with respect to execution of the approved provision.
City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie said, “The ordinance was prepared as an amendment to the City living wage law; that was done so that we would already have a mechanism in place to ensure compliance.”
Under the ordinance, whenever the City awards a contract of more than $54,200 to a contractor, that service provider must “pay a minimum wage to employees working on the contract for work done on the contract,” unless the contractor is a grantee, nonprofit corporation, or corporation providing banking services. However, for any worker associated with a grantee, nonprofit, or corporation providing banking services, the ordinance calls for “the contractor (to) provide the same benefits to same sex spouses and domestic partners as are provided to other employees’ spouses.”
As a few major California cities have already passed a similar measure, the Council’s ordinance would “ensure that City contractors do not discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation and marital status.” Some of those cities include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, and Berkeley.
“This requirement would ensure that City contractors covered by the Living Wage Law would not discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or marital status,” Jones stated in her staff report to the Council. “Thus, for instance, an employer that offered health insurance and other benefits to spouses would have to provide the same benefits to same sex spouses and to domestic partners… The ordinance would assist in effectuating the principle of “equal pay for equal work.”
Jim Carroll, interim executive director of Equality California, indicated the council’s action at its April 26 meeting was necessary.
“The equal benefits ordinance is an important measure that would help California businesses, including businesses here in Santa Monica, while at the same time helping ensure equality by making sure tax dollars do not go to those who discriminate,” Carroll told the Council. “This ordinance would prohibit the City from contracting with entities that provide benefits to their employees with opposite sex spouses but not to employees with same sex spouses or domestic partners.
“This smart economic policy will also help continue Santa Monica’s leadership as the cutting edge city that values diversity and promotes equality, “ Caroll said.
Mayor Richard Bloom agreed with Carroll’s take on the unanimous approval of the ordinance, adding while Santa Monica was not the first city to institute such a non-discriminatory measure protecting same sex unions and domestic partnerships, he hoped the council’s decision would inspire similar action among other activists and municipalities.
“This is a relatively small but significant step that helps us ensure that those who do business with the City of Santa Monica will not discriminate against couples who live together in same sex unions,” Bloom said. “I would encourage activists out there in other cities to remind their own city councils that this is an action they can take to undermine discrimination that still, unfortunately, exists in our society.”