1/14/2008California: Traffic Court Community Service Violates Minimum Wage Law
San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, California pay less than minimum wage to motorists performing traffic ticket community service.
Although California requires all employers to post a notice informing workers that the state's minimum wage is $8 an hour, several cities are extracting labor from indigent motorists in the form of community service paid at a rate in some cases close to one-half of the legal minimum. The San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project was created to allow drivers to pay off parking or traffic ticket debt through community service. Typical tasks include cleaning up trash on the side of the road, sweeping sidewalks and removing graffiti to help improve the community. This labor, however, is only compensated at the rate of $6 an hour.
In Berkeley this program is called "Berkeley Community Service Works," in Oakland it is "Project 22" and it is "Project 20" in San Francisco. The latter is the worst offender as San Francisco requires all employers in the city to pay a special "living wage" of $9.36 an hour, and all those doing business with or on behalf of the city must pay at least $11.03 an hour.
San Francisco motorist Allen White wants to force the city to change the policy.
"In real terms, the Project 20 participant will work most of a full business day, or seven hours to work off just one $40 ticket for an overdue meter or not moving a car for street sweeping," White wrote. "Said another way, working off just five parking tickets can take most of a full work week."