Sonoma County logoThe Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to raise the county’s Living Wage to $16.75 an hour, its first increase since the landmark ordinance to combat poverty was adopted in 2015.

The 11.7 percent increase, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2022, sets a minimum wage for all individuals employed directly by the County of Sonoma and workers in some private companies and nonprofits that contract with the county government. The boost keeps pay rates for county government employees and contract workers ahead of the state minimum wage, which rises on Jan. 1, 2022, to $14 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer workers and $15 an hour for employers with 26 or more workers.

“This conversation fundamentally is about economic dignity. We are trying to invest in the kind of society that we want to live in,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We are united and going in the right direction.”

The Living Wage ordinance was enacted in December 2015 to help low-wage workers earn an hourly wage that enables them to live with dignity and to achieve economic self-sufficiency. It was the culmination of a series of meetings, town halls and discussions with community partners, and represents an important facet of the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to poverty reduction strategies.

The county Department of General Services estimates the wage increase will add $542,000 in annual costs to the contracts it manages, including contracts for janitorial services, fleet repairs, auto parts, targeted grazing, sanitation services, veterans building management and security services. Financial impacts to other county departments, likely to include Health Services, Human Services and the Sheriff’s Office detention unit, are yet to be estimated.

The new wage will take effect Jan. 1, 2022 for all new contracts and will be phased in to apply to existing contracts by April 1, 2022. It applies to private companies with six or more employees if they supply $25,000 annually or more in contracted services to the county, and nonprofits that have 25 or more employees and supply more than $50,000 annually in services to the county. The requirements also apply to entities that annually receive more than $100,000 in economic development assistance. All county government suppliers must certify they have complied with the Living Wage ordinance during the contracting process.

The wage has stood at $15 an hour since its implementation in July 2016. Repeated natural disasters from 2017-2020 delayed the county’s annual review of the ordinance — a precursor to any adjustments in the wage — until September 2021.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to consider additional changes to the ordinance in 2022, including a proposal by North Bay Jobs with Justice and the North Bay Labor Council to provide 12 paid sick/personal leave days to all covered employees.

Four other Northern California counties — Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz — have adopted a Living Wage ordinance, according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Sebastopol, Sonoma and Petaluma have also adopted Living Wage ordinances.