San Francisco’s Proposition J: Into Action With The Minimum Wage at GLIDE

propJ-logoI’m excited to see that Proposition J, the minimum wage increase for San Francisco, is supported by the majority of people in San Francisco and is likely to pass in November. I’m excited because:

Every week I talk to people who will be affected by this law, and I keep hearing their stories, like what it is like to work for $11.03 per hour, commuting almost two hours each way by bus and BART from Vallejo for a four hour shift, paying $18.60 for transit on a day when your net pay will be less than $35 even after the tax refund you won’t get until next year. I ask these folks why they even choose to do this, day after day, a choice that looks economically irrational to me. I ask this in part because my middle class upbringing tried to brainwash me into believing that economics rules behavior and that poor people are lazy. This is what I hear in response to my question: “Because I want to work,” from someone who recently got out of prison. “Because I believe in what we are doing,” from someone who helps coordinate our Free Meals program. “Because people gave me a second chance with this job, and I want to pay my debt to this community,” from someone who used to sell drugs. “Because I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished here,” from someone who worked in the restaurant industry for years and decided to stop drinking when he started working with us. These are people who could probably be making more money outside of the formal employment system – heck, they could probably make more money panhandling two blocks away. These are people supporting school-age children. But they choose to work, and it’s completely insane to me that we in the Bay Area have allowed people to work for years at below-subsistence wages just because we could, because there is an abundance of labor willing to take a job that barely pays for itself.

JBL_30Love small

Photograph by Lisa Wiseman

I myself used to work in the service industry before coming to GLIDE, in a city about 30 miles south of SF. I started at $8.00 an hour, and two years later I was an assistant manager running the daily retail floor and overseeing the training of over 35 staff – earning $13.90. My employer had policies that were Walmart-like in punishing even a minute of unauthorized overtime but requiring an extensive set of closing responsibilities, tacitly encouraging us to “donate” time to the business by working overtime off-the-clock, and I could not take a regular second job because my schedule got shifted every quarter, I was given random shifts and split weekends that preempted my availability to consistently work outside or have a regular childcare setup (if I had kids, which thankfully for them I don’t.) If you still haven’t had a chance to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, I can tell you it’s even more relevant today, with San Francisco increasingly split into knowledge workers and workers in the service sector.

GP 2 14-257Right at the top of my list of things to be happy about is the fact that at GLIDE we have decided to increase the wages of our lowest-paid workers ahead of the proposed city ordinance, mostly because we are convinced it’s the right thing to do, but also to step out in front and be a part of the solution here in San Francisco. At GLIDE, we see more and more working folks accessing our Free Meals programs because they can’t pay for both housing and food. That’s not justice to us.

Some history: At GLIDE we had, until this year, pretty much just kept pace with the minimum wage – for SF employers with city contracts, the minimum wage for the last 7 years has been stuck at $11.03/hour. That means that any contracts we have with the city are based on jobs paying $11.03, and if we pay more than that, we are paying from the foundation’s unrestricted funds a.k.a. checks and cash from the individuals and families like you who support us.

GP 2 14-249In June, however, GLIDE began a conscious effort to move our own folks towards a living wage. In addition to raising the starting minimum to $11.50/hour, we gave substantial bump up (by $1.50-$2.50) to the wages of staff earning less than $20/hour who have been here for three years or more. We used a tiered formula for the increases that financially prioritized our lowest wage staff.

Inside of GLIDE, we believe that it is worth something to have a workforce of people serving the poor who are not themselves compelled to be in financial distress. Our services to the homeless and poor residents of the city will be better for it. We also know our jobs are supporting families. We decided to move ahead of Proposition J and make a statement about our support for living wages for all the city’s workers.

GP 2 14-604We also made these changes because it’s in our mission to be breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and dependence, and we can see that paying just the City’s minimum wages could actually be contributing to intergenerational poverty. Low wages also exacerbate the un-affordability of San Francisco’s rental and housing market, and poor people deserve clean, safe local housing as much as anyone – check out GLIDE’s 80 family apartments at 125 Mason St. if you want to see what we think good affordable housing looks like. San Francisco is grounded in the huge range of people who can participate in the public life of this city. When poor people are pushed out, and when the voices of working class artists, communities of color and LGBT runaways are diminished, San Francisco will be at risk of being the kind of straitjacketing, non-accepting monoculture that many of us moved here to escape. We will have brought our own hell with us.

G Tday11-121At GLIDE, the joy you see here at Sunday morning Celebrations and the welcome people feel every day of the week in our programs aren’t because we are nice people. It’s because everyone, homeless or housed, movie star or coffee barista, undocumented worker or Mayflower scion – everyone – can have a place at the table here. This level of diversity forces us to get real instead of hiding behind niceness, and the acceptance it takes to make this all work changes the entire social equation.

All of these decisions have an explicit cost, just as they would in a restaurant or other business. Our planned increases will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years. Choosing to implement these raises took grit and careful planning by our executive team. We’re not sure how we’ll pay for these increases, and I’m still not convinced it’s enough. There have been some of us who are worried that we might not be able to sustain the increases, and could eventually have to cut essential service programs in order to keep a balanced budget. If the City’s Proposition J does pass, some relief will come through marginal increases in contracts and grants funding we receive. We think our donors will support our decision to move towards a living wage for all our regular staff, by continuing to support GLIDE’s work through the years. In any case, we are stepping out with the change – it will be better for our staff and ultimately for all the people we serve here in the city. Like I said before, it’s the right thing to do.

Justice starts at home, and I’m proud that GLIDE is always on the path that heads there. In the area of living wages and income inequality, these recent wage increases are a start. May we continue to walk at the front of society’s long arc towards justice.

JBL_30Love smallJames B. Lin is the Co-Director of Human Resources and Organizational Integration at GLIDE

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For Rev. Cecil Williams, on his 85th Birthday

Cecil_035I first learned of GLIDE in 1981. I was a seminary student at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and was in a class called “Ministry of Deviance”(!). The class had three requirements: 1) Ride in a cop car with a Berkeley police office; 2) Walk through the Tenderloin at midnight with the Night Minister; 3) Attend a GLIDE Celebration.

I wondered what could be deviant about going to church. Then I walked through the doors!

Deviant.  Definitely deviant!

The word deviant is defined as:

Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society..

One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

With that being the definition of deviant, GLIDE is definitely deviant and Rev. Cecil Williams is really deviant! How else can you explain the following:

What inspired a young black boy from Texas to dream of an integrated church?

What sustained that young man’s soul when he was one of the first African Americans to enter Perkins School of Theology?

What clergyman did you know who sported an afro and whose liturgical garb was a dashiki?

How many churches across America do the wealthy and poor sit together in the same pew?

What pastor would dare to take on the crack epidemic, support the rights of sex workers, stand in solidarity with lgbtq people, and take down a cross from the sanctuary?

A deviant one. One whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with you, Cecil, to learn from you, to risk with you.

You have shown me that the Spirit resides in the outrageous.

That unconditional love is an even greater force than I ever imagined.

That unconditional acceptance transforms every single one of us.

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Thank you, Cecil, for being your most deviant self here at GLIDE. Thank you for inviting us all to be deviant with you. There is no other church in the world like GLIDE. There is no other community like this one and it’s because of your inspiration, dedication, hard work, and deep love.

Happy birthday!

In gratitude and with love,


G Leaders14-302Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Senior Pastor | Originally from Long Island, NY, Karen Oliveto has been a campus and parish minister in rural and urban settings in New York and California.  She arrived in San Francisco in 1989, first as campus minister at San Francisco State University, and then, in 1992, as the pastor and leader of Bethany United Methodist Church in Noe Valley. While there, she expanded the congregation, and was instrumental in the effort to open the doors of the United Methodist Church to all persons, including gays and lesbians and their families. Oliveto holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Society from Drew University, and recently served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Pacific School of Religion where she continues as adjunct professor of United Methodist Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at Drew University’s Doctor of Ministry program.  Karen continues GLIDE’s commitment to unconditional love and unconditional acceptance. “If you want to see what the beloved community looks like, come to GLIDE.” She enjoys working with diverse communities to create a more just world. She encourages the GLIDE community to connect with one another, to engage more deeply with spiritual traditions, and be empowered to be change agents at GLIDE and in the world.
She is a leader in the Reconciling Ministries Network, a grassroots organization of congregations and communities committed to the full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life and ministries of The United Methodist Church and has served as chair of the board.  She is also on the board of California Faith for Equality. Karen is the co-author of Talking about Homosexuality: A Congregational Resource (Pilgrim Press: 2005) and has written numerous articles, hymns and liturgies.  She is an avid hiker and traveler, plays guitar and drums, and enjoys cooking for friends.  Email Karen at
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Get Ready for November

GLIDE’s mission is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to break the cycles of poverty and marginalization, and this November, it’s getting very real.

Cecil_039GLIDE has advocated for positive change throughout its over fifty year history. Starting with programs like Citizen’s Alert (1965) that sought to investigate charges of police brutality and support victims, GLIDE has been committed to speaking the truth as the voice of the people of San Francisco.  GLIDE is getting real for this November election – issues of vital community importance are being addressed in San Francisco’s upcoming ballot.   Glide12-294 We want to affirm our commitment to these issues:

  1. Creating and Maintaining Affordable Housing
  2. Reforming Our Broken Criminal Justice System
  3. Assuring Living Wages and Inclusiveness
  4. Supporting the Youth, Children and Families in Our Community

Glide Memorial ChurchKids Toys Give AwayWe have witnessed, through the media or the struggles we and those close to us have endured, the devastation of San Francisco’s housing crisis. We have witnessed how criminal prosecution and sentencing disproportionately targets communities of color, stigmatizing young men and women with records that may follow them for a lifetime, in many cases for minor offenses. We see how hard working people struggle to support themselves with low wages and high rents, sharing modest accomodations in sub-par conditions, seeking refuge in shelters and on friends’ couches or housed but cannot afford their next meal. We know how children exposed to tremendous societal and economic barriers such as these do not receive the resources they need to succeed.

Cecil45th prep2-443In order to break through these barriers, these years of pain and fear, we need to share our stories and speak our truths: to legislators, to the ballot box and perhaps most of all to each other.

This is why GLIDE will be sharing our stories and our insights into how we can make this place we call home better for every one of us, on this November Ballot and beyond.  Look for our upcoming endorsements of specific measures, join our political actions, get out your vote, and contact us to find out more about how you can volunteer to help at (415) 674-6081 or email

Let’s get started.

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Healing from the Unimaginable

Beth and Nick Solstice Parade

Since I heard of Robin Williams death, I cannot stop thinking of two sentences from my own son’s suicide note:

“I know that there are people who will be deeply negatively affected by this, and I am truly sorry.  There is no excuse for what I have done, and I ask forgiveness.”

“deeply negatively affected” – Nicholas, Robin, you had no idea.

I wonder where his wife and his children were when they found out.  I had been out for a nice dinner with a friend and was home watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind with one eye open.  I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid. 

When the phone rang, I thought it was Nick.  The night before, we had talked about his high school literature club.  “People aren’t talking mom.”  So, he discussed the book with the teacher. 

It wasn’t Nick on the line, it was his father.  “Nicholas is dead.”  “He shot himself.” 

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Crack is Genocide, 1990’s Style #throwbackthursday #tbt

Written by Rev. Cecil Williams and originally printed in the New York Times on Thursday, February 15, 1990.


San Francisco – Today, as President Bush attends a six hour drug “summit” in Colombia, I wonder why he so often says that drugs are our nation’s number one problem, yet he does so little about them. Twenty-five years of working every day in the crucible of urban America have brought me to an extremely disturbing conclusion: The crack epidemic in the United States amounts to genocide.

Genocide is not only the extermination of a people through systematic mass murder – and by that I do not mean to diminish those who suffered wholesale annihilation. What I’m talking about is genocide, 1990’s style: when the spirit of a people is destroyed, when the culture of a people is eradicated, when basic human relationships are ripped apart, when large numbers of people are killed because of drug-related crimes and overdoses. I am talking about the spiritual and physical death of a race.

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GLIDE’s Charlie Crompton



Reshared from The Recorder originally posted on June 2, 2014 by Nathalie Pierrepont and photograph by Jason Doiy. 


Last fall, Latham & Watkins partner Charlie Crompton, a 25-year Big Law veteran, launched a drop-in legal clinic at GLIDE, an organization that supports the poor and disenfranchised in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. In April, he withdrew from private practice to dedicate himself to the clinic full time.

Q: You chaired Latham & Watkins pro bono program, globally, for five years. When did your relationship start with GLIDE?

A: If you go all the way back, 25 years, when I was an associate, one of my earliest pro bono clients was Rubicon Programs. Five or six years ago, when GLIDE needed a lawyer, the executive director, who was the former executive director of Rubicon, suggested me. It was cool; it was like it was meant to be.

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MEET SASHA: Connecting the GLIDE Community Near & Far

My first experience with GLIDE started with hearing that Andreessen Horowitz‘s leaders would be featured at A GLIDE Talk with Ben Horowitz and Lars Dalgaard

As I was reading about the event, I decided to browse through the website and something really caught my attention about GLIDE’s mission: To empower the people at the bottom of society.

I found out that GLIDE has a kitchen that serves people in need everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So I decided to volunteer in the Daily Free Meals Program on the same day of the event.

As I was walking to GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals Program, I saw a very long line wrapping around the block. All of whom l assume were waiting for the kitchen to open. As I got into the dining room area, I was greeted by a friendly staff member who gave me an apron, hair net, and instructions on helping to collect the leftover trays after people are done eating.


(But first… had to take a selfie!)

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GLIDE Instagram
Proud to host leaders from the United Methodist Church today. @umc @umns #bespiritual Thank you @onekingslane for your wonderful furniture donation to Glide Housing. #donatetoglide. Thank you to Moody's for serving today at Glide's Free Meals program! Thank you @glassybaby for Glide's unique "Cozy" orange!

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