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Wage advocates at odds with Target planned for Santa Rosa


The Santa Rosa Planning Commission today will reconsider its June 14 vote to grant a permit for a Target store at Coddingtown mall, a move that has frustrated some business and political leaders but encouraged advocates of better wages and benefits for workers.

The decision could determine how quickly the mall can move forward with plans to demolish the two-story former Gottschalks building and replace it with a 143,000-square-foot single story Target, which would be Santa Rosa’s second.

A Target store is planned for the former Gottschalks site at Coddingtown. (PD File)

It also could become a flashpoint between those who believe businesses freed from burdensome regulations can best spur job creation, and those who think more regulations are needed to ensure only businesses that create good-paying jobs are welcome in Santa Rosa.

Jonathan Coe, president of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, said his organization hopes the Planning Commission reaffirms its earlier approval of the project.

“We support any and all jobs,” Coe said.

But the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County has seized on the Target project – and inaccurate employment information provided by a Target executive — as evidence greater scrutiny is needed of the 200 to 250 jobs that will be created.

“There are benefits and costs to these jobs, and the community needs to consider all of those at the front end,” said Marty Bennett, co-founder of the Living Wage Coalition.

Formed in 2000, the union-supported group has lobbied for rules encouraging better wages and benefits for workers. It has won passage of living wage ordinances in Sebastopol, Sonoma and Petaluma. Santa Rosa rejected such an ordinance in 2001.

The ordinances require organizations that do business with those cities to abide by certain wage and benefits requirements. Petaluma’s ordinance, for example, requires companies that do not pay health benefits for their workers to pay wages of at least $13.20 per hour.

The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and California’s is $8. In San Francisco, it’s $10.24 per hour.

A “living wage” is different from a “minimum wage” in that it tries to establish an amount of pay “that is sufficient to live with dignity and to achieve economic self-sufficiency,” according to Petaluma’s ordinance.

The coalition claims a living wage in Sonoma County is between $14 per hour for a single person and $33 per hour for a single parent of two children.

Bennett says Target will pay “poverty wages,” hires mostly part-time workers, and only about 37 percent of its employees are covered by health care.

John Dewes, a Target regional development manager, tried to refute those claims at the June 14 hearing, stating that 60 percent of employees at the new store would be full-timers.

But he later acknowledged that ratio was wrong, apologized to the commission, and said he had “unintentionally inverted” the full-time and part-time figures. In fact, between 35 and 45 percent of Target workers are full time, with the balance being part-timers, Dewes explained in a follow-up letter to the commission.

Target has not said what it will pay workers at the new store, but a report done for the San Rafael store estimated wages at $9 to $16.75 per hour for non-management jobs.

Despite his apology, the commission voted 3-2 to reconsider its prior approval of the permit, which is required for developments over 50,000-square-feet regardless of zoning.

The reconsideration vote prompted a shake-up on the commission. A commissioner who didn’t vote because of a conflict, Shaun Faber, subsequently resigned and City Councilman Jake Ours replaced him with Curt Groninga. The retired assistant superintendent at Santa Rosa Junior College is a member of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Council, which has a mission of promoting “a pro-business political environment.” He also hs served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Board and Charter Review Committee.

Groninga could not be reached for comment. A Target spokeswoman did not respond for comment, and mall officials had no comment.

City Attorney Caroline Fowler said under current law the city has no authority to regulate the wages or benefits of private businesses, nor does it have any requirement for development projects to conduct community impact reports, which Bennett has advocated.

Bennett claims such a report is vital because it would give decision makers the information they need to judge whether the project would be good for the community overall, including costs of uninsured workers on the public health system.

“Our question is what are you afraid of with a community impact report? This is just information that can help the decision-making process,” Bennett said.

17 Responses to “Wage advocates at odds with Target planned for Santa Rosa”

  1. Eric Newman says:

    Reading the conservatives on WSC wax nostalgic for the good old days of the Horatio Alger America where hard work and gumption would take you from the shop floor to the boardroom, it makes you feel like its morning in America again. Until you wake up and realize that that world is long gone.

    The reality of the modern day corporatocy that is America is that we have the lowest social mobility of any G20 country, and that entire sections of the population live in permanent poverty, and that the standard of living for working folks has been going down steadily since the ruinous Reagan Administration.

    “The Market” wil not resolve that problem by itself. That will take political will to create deep changes in the tax system, and legislation to raise the wage floor for workers.

    Three cheers for the Living Wage Coalition for highlighting the dismal labor standards of the Wall Street economic model that has generated the low-wage big-box economy.

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  2. GAJ says:

    It would be interesting if everyone listed their first jobs and where they ended up.

    Me? P/T bagboy at a grocery store while going to college. Got my MBA, got involved with a small business, survived the ups and downs, sold before the crash, retired at 51.

    My Wife: P/T cashier at a drug store…same educational path, same business venture, same retirement at same age.

    Daughter: P/T work for the State, In-Home Supportive Services Provider, got her degree, (also worked P/T as a barrista), now full time decent pay/bennies with the State.

    Brother: P/T work at a fast food joint that eventually became a Burger King long after he left. Got his MBA, worked for a major US industrial firm for 35 years retired this year at age 58.

    Nephew: P/T work at a Radio Shack, go his PHD in Nanotechnology, now works for a firm selling high tech analysis equipment, earns north of $70k with excellent bennies.

    Best friend who was so poor after college he painted houses, (including that of my parents), as he could not find a job during Jimmy Carter’s recession. VP of a Bond trading firm, a 1%’er, working hard, living well below his means and so driven he’s not thinking of retirement.

    I could go on, but I’m sure most people here have similar stories of meager beginnings.

    Your first job is NOT your LAST job!

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  3. Kay Tokerud says:

    The local special interest groups want Community Impact Reports because they claim to be the Community themselves. These private special interest groups will then dictate what the community wants. Forget having any actual community members, i.e. people, from having any input. We will be shut out of the process having only people who have something to gain deciding what will be in the report. No thanks, this subverts the legal process of review as done by our cities’ planning, design review and City Councils. We don’t need another layer of fake community review by special interest groups.

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  4. Skippy says:

    “I really screwed up when I chose to work 30 years for local government.”
    Yes, you did.
    Your former employer is teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy, thanks to decades of profligate spending and delusional public employee retirement contract promises.
    Soon you too will know that Big Govt is not your friend. Your faith in them will always be betrayed.
    Kinda stinks about the soon-to-be bitter Golden Years part, but you made your choice.

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  5. bear says:

    Damn! I could make $100K/year as a Target manager?

    I really screwed up when I chose to work 30 years for local government.

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  6. GAJ says:

    Every single successful person I know, including me, my wife and my daugter, started out at what some elitists think are “menial” jobs near or at the prevailing minimum wage.

    Newsflash; that’s the way it is SUPPOSED to work!

    If you want to make $50,000 with benefits at Target you work your way up to Assistant Manager.

    If you want to make closer to $100,000 you work your way up to store manager.

    If you want to make even more, work p/t at Target and go to College.

    It’s not that complicated and simply takes a work ethic.

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  7. Briano says:

    I don’t get it, if the law states a minimum wage is $8, why is it Target’s fault? Get the minimum wage raised for all businesses then. Or don’t live in an expensive state.

    And what is the point of talking about $33 friggen dollars an hour for a family of 3?! So they should make about what I make, and I had to bust my arse going to college and working my way up?


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  8. Jay Behr says:

    For the record, Marty Bennett is a life-long committed social justice advocate who has done a public service by exposing the systematic misrepresentations of Target. Contrary to the laughable alibi that the Target rep made when his game was exposed (oh yeah, we just transposed the numbers on the part-time/full-time ratios…right!)that big lie is part of their public presentation whenever they want to open a new location in a city where they actually do their due diligence, and look at the actual impacts of their dismal wage and benefit policies. That misrepresentation is not an accident, it is standard operating procedure.

    I am amused by the corporate apologists who make the claim that we should just ignore the impacts of low-ball big-box operators because “job is a job”. That’s shallow, lazy thinking, typical of the intellectually threadbare and deliberately historically ignorant modern conservative movement.

    Since the Reagan administration launched a full-scale frontal assault on the working class and opened the floodgates of outsourcing manufacturing jobs, and driving down wages for hourly workers by crushing unions and encouraging the Wall Street drive toward replacing family wage jobs with precarious part-time jobs with minimal benefits, real wages have been heading south. This massive rip-off, which has created untold social suffering and stunted the lives of millions of Americans, was engineered so that a small class of CEO’s, hedge fund managers, and vulture capitalists could engorge themselves at our expense. Their day is done, even if they don’t yet know it. History is not on their side.

    Thanks to groups like the Living Wage Coalition, this systemic economic theft is being exposed and the dialog is now shifting. Even though, predictably, the Planning Commission was bullied into submission tonight, the debate is far from over.

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  9. John Bly says:

    I wish Mr. Bennett and his followers would be honest enough to do an accurate survey of all the “mom and pop” businesses in the area. I would bet their percentage of part time workers is greater than Target’s. Mr. Bennett believes a vacant store is better than a Target store. What “benefits and costs” are there to the community in having an empty building? The jobs created by a new Target would be welcomed by the students and others that would take (gladly) the Target job as a part time or 2nd job.

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  10. Just Me says:

    Hey Bear, do you think that the kid in high school that is restricted to part time hours by law or the jr. college students who only have part time hours to work should be making your living wage? Shouldn’t they be required as part of growing up to start at the bottom instead of the top?

    My first job paid me $1.90 per hour back in 1976…and that was darn good money then!

    We need places like Target and the Mall Stores at minimum wage to give those kids a start in their lifelong work careers. They don’t expect those kids to stay there their whole life!

    If they are to start at the middle of the scale, then the middle needs to move up and so on and there is NO MONEY to pay more!

    Life is tough, and if we started teaching our kids this when they are little instead of rewarding them for every little thing, they wouldn’t expect to start at the top.

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  11. 0 Representation says:

    “Target has not said what it will pay workers at the new store, but a report done for the San Rafael store estimated wages at $9 to $16.75 per hour for non-management jobs.”

    Do people really think the Target in Santa Rosa is going to pay the same wages as they pay in San Rafael? They won’t.

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  12. Steveguy says:

    Bear is so wrong. When I ran a business in Santa Rosa, I was paying my guys good money. I needed SKILLED workers and even had to train skilled workers more. Good money, great benefits. I even paid the office help well.

    Granted, Target has a different business model, but their sort of business attracts part-time workers. Mine didn’t.

    Moral ? A shelf-stocker or cashier make less than a skilled worker, though there is skill in those jobs too. What about the Union delivery drivers, etc ?

    Nahhh, let’s not allow ANY business, and if they try, sue them ! That will help.

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  13. bear says:

    Let me tell you what private sector employers want.

    They want all the employees they can use, at the lowest possible cost, without benefits. Paid vacation? Paid sick leave? No. Retirement help of any kind? No. Illegal aliens? Great. A down economy? Great, as long as it doesn’t hurt my profits.

    Why hire anyone new if you can strongarm existing employees into working more? Or without overtime?

    Doesn’t matter that parents with 2-3 jobs can’t properly care for their children. Doesn’t matter that low wages lead to low tax returns. Let’s cut the budget of anything that interferes with MY profits. Social responsibility? No.

    Why should we pay any taxes at all? WE are the “job creators.” You are the greedheads that will destroy the economy and this country.

    And then you’ll go to one of those bankruptcy lawyers, because your “small business” was nothing more than a pipedream.

    And then you’ll go to the “credit resolution” firms that steal my money to subsidize your mistakes.

    Who are the real “welfare queens?”

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  14. J.D. Biersdorfer says:

    Marty “Robin Hood” Bennett needs to get a life or a job or maybe both. If he and his little band don’t want jobs at Target, they need not apply. There will be more than enough applicants to fill all of the positions and then some.

    Wages are determined by the market, what like jobs are paid. If Marty doesn’t like this arrangement he should shove off to Cuba or some other red paradise where slave wages are paid, but everyone makes the same.

    The private sector in Sonoma County is hurting and has been for sometime. It is time the city council and the little planning commission wake up and smell the coffee. Create jobs don’t destroy jobs. Let Marty run in the fields and forrests looking for windmills to battle.

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  15. Canthisbe says:

    “There are benefits and costs to these jobs, and the community needs to consider all of those at the front end,” said Marty Bennett, co-founder of the Living Wage Coalition.
    “Our question is what are you afraid of with a community impact report? This is just information that can help the decision-making process,” Bennett said.
    Here’s your CIR: Target employees will earn more, will collect less unemployment benefits, will not cost the public more in other public subsidies and will pay more taxes than an equal number of unemployed Santa Rosans. With that information, the Planning Commission can move forward without further delay.
    Also, it would be interesting to know how many of the unions, political organizations, non-profits and individuals that belong to the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County pay their employees and maids according the Coalition’s guidelines. Probably not a single one.

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  16. GAJ says:

    Unbelievable; not EVERY job is a “career” job or meant to be comfy enough to live on. The economy absolutely NEEDS “stepping stone jobs” for new workers in the economy.

    I’m very grateful for the job I had in college as a bag boy at Grand Union. Sure, I lived with housemates because I couldn’t afford to live alone.

    So what?

    Had I wanted a better paying career their I would have had to apply myself and move up.

    So what?

    Had they had to pay me a “living wage” I would have had NO job.

    For me, that wasn’t going to be my career anyway as I got my MBA and had a successful career in small business, (despite many near bankruptcy experiences…a common thing in small business by the way).

    If your current job doesn’t pay enough, cut your expenses until you find one, (or progress to one through hard work), that does. If necessary get a second job.

    That’s the way it has always been done and tons of successful people today started at “menial” stepping stone jobs and look back on the experience as a very valuable thing…often because it motivated to reach far beyond the realm of jobs people consider menial.

    Your first job is rarely you last job.


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  17. Reality Check says:

    Since the “coalition” believes the minimum living wage is $14/hr for a single person and $33/hr for a family of three, should Target be required to pay people based on family size?

    It looks like the principle of equal pay for equal work is being tossed aside in favor of a new standard, a Marxian notion of “to each according to their need.”

    Alice, how is life in Wonderland?

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