The Workers Fund will equip 40,000 private sector workers at the airport to manage financial emergencies and avoid predatory payday lenders.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - The Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) and the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) today announced the award of $150,000 from The Workers Lab which funds experimentation and innovation to build power for working people. Funds will be used to support the development of a Workers Fund to provide 40,000 non-city workers at the airport access to a cash benefit to manage financial emergencies.

“The Workers Fund will equip workers to manage unexpected financial shocks — a broken-down car or a trip to the hospital — that can send hardworking families down a dangerous spiral,” said Treasurer José Cisneros. “The Office of Financial Empowerment is thrilled to partner with the San Francisco International Airport to strengthen economic security of workers, and we are grateful to the Workers Lab for supporting this innovation.”

Nearly half of all Americans say they couldn’t cover an unplanned $400 expense, and nearly two-thirds of American workers would struggle to cover a $1,000 crisis. This is a struggle shared by the 40,000 private sector workers at the San Francisco International Airport, of whom half earn less than $50,000 annually. A Workers Fund will help these workers cope with crises, stabilize, maintain their jobs, and reduce reliance on predatory financial services that can leave them trapped in a cycle of debt.

“For decades, SFO has been leading the drive to provide financial stability to airport workers,” said Airport Director Ivar C. Satero. “Our industry-first Quality Standards Program was created to enhance safety and security by reducing turnover and improve training standards for airport employees. Our private sector airport employees are one of our largest and most valued communities, and their success is directly tied to ours. We rely on them to keep our airport safe and secure, and we want them and their families to have that same level of security. Thanks to this grant from The Workers Lab Innovation Fund, we continue to make safety and security our highest priorities, by helping our Airport workers cover unplanned emergency expenses that are disruptive and may negatively impact their ability to work. I am grateful for the partnership with the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office of Financial Empowerment, and for their support in addressing the economic insecurities of airport workers and bringing this concept to reality.”

The partnership between OFE and SFO will design and pilot a Workers Fund that helps workers manage financial volatility, serves all 40,000 non-city employees working across the various employers at SFO, and strengthens SFO and its tenant employers’ ability to attract, support, and retain workers. OFE will document the model such that it can be adapted and replicated at other airports and potentially other sectors across the country.

OFE will design the Workers Fund with workers, labor partners, SFO, and its tenant employers to determine the size of the Fund, mechanism for funding it, how workers access it, and how it is administered and governed. The Workers Lab Innovation Fund grant of $150,000 will support development of a sustainable business model, and a technology platform that ensures funds are disbursed swiftly, and employer contributions, employee access and distribution can be administered on a large scale.

“The finalists this year were incredibly inspiring,” said The Workers Lab CEO, Carmen Rojas. “All of the finalists, and in particular these winning projects, are disrupting the status quo with public sector solutions to address automation; job training that increases wages and worker power; and, tools to help working people meet financial needs.”

A 2017 report highlighted the cost of workers’ financial stress to employers, from higher rates of absenteeism and lower rates of job satisfaction to lower productivity. One in three workers report distraction at work due to financial stress, which represents upwards of 20 hours in lost productivity from a worker per month. And Financial hardship and lower job satisfaction lead to higher turnover, with the replacement costs of hiring and training as high as 200% of an employee’s annual salary. The Workers Fund promises a cost-effective benefit to help workers cope with crises, while helping employers recruit, retain, and stabilize their workforce.

For more than a decade, the Office of Financial Empowerment – founded by Treasurer José Cisneros and housed in the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector – has pioneered efforts to strengthen economic security and mobility for low-income families who live, work or receive services in San Francisco. This has included partnering with the San Francisco Unified School District to build the largest, publicly-funded children’s savings program in the country, partnering with social service agencies across the City to integrate free, one-on-one financial coaching for thousands of residents, and helping more than 75,000 people open safe, affordable bank accounts.

About The Workers Lab Innovation Fund

The Workers Lab funds experimentation and innovation to build power for working people. The winners of The Workers Lab Fall 2018 Innovation Fund receive $150,000 in grants or loans, as well as mentorship, training, and convening support. This year, The Workers Lab received over 450 submissions, from across 6 countries and 30 states; 78% of these applicants were led by women and/or people of color. The top ten finalists gathered in New York on October 4-5 to present their projects at the Fall Showcase. Learn more at http://theworkerslab.com/innovationfund/.


Media Contacts: Amanda Kahn Fried, Treasurer’s Office (415) 554-0889 or Doug Yakel, San Francisco International Airport (650) 821-4000