Reproduced by permission of the artist.
SonomaTime is one currency program which goes further than Ithaca on its efforts to raise the minimum wage. While Ithaca merely suggests and encourages that members pay at least one HOUR for an hour's labour, SonomaTime requires members to agree to an egalitarian trading policy. "Otherwise, it reverts to a very hierarchical and uneven distribution of resources,"1 noted co-ordinator Patricia Hamarati. The following is excerpted from the SonomaTime website, and explains their policy on valuing goods and services exchanged for their currency.
Our currency is denominated in time. We get paid based on the amount of time expended and we value our time equally. If I give you one and one half hours of my time, for whatever I do, you pay me one and one half Hours.2
Hour for hour pricing
When figuring time expended, price in Hours. When adding overhead or cost of materials, you can figure the cost in Hours and/or dollars. Our exchange rate beginning on January 1, 2000 is one Hour equals twenty dollars.
Service providers without business overhead - price at One Hour per hour.
Service providers with fixed business expenses (rent, utilities, insurance)- provide at least one regularly scheduled slot priced at Hour per hour. Thereafter, you can add the cost of your overhead, prorated for that amount of time, to your time expended.
Service providers with variable business expenses (that is, costs that are specific to any particular transaction; the cost of materials needed to complete the transaction) Provide one regularly scheduled slot at Hour per hour. Thereafter, you can add the prorated cost of overhead and the cost of materials to your time expended
Merchants - make available at least one item for cost payable in Hours. Use the current exchange rate. Other items can be sold for cost plus overhead.
Arts & Crafts persons - make available at least one item for cost payable in Hours. Use the current exchange rate. For additional sales, you can calculate the price by adding your time expended to the cost of materials and other related business expenses.3
As another element of prescribed community values, SonomaTime required its members to pledge their involvement in writing. This was to prevent SonomaTime from experiencing what happened to Cuyahoga HOURs before their program collapsed, according to former Cuyahoga co-ordinator David Ellison. "So many people had answering machines and if theyd call you back, theyd try to work out of providing services with excuses. We didnt focus enough on the integrity of the currency and the value of the services."4 The following wording is on the SonomaTime membership application to ensure that individuals are active participants in the program:
I pledge to offer good(s) and/or service(s) to be published in the SonomaTime print and Internet directory, and agree to accept SonomaTime Hours as payment for my goods and/or services. I agree to set aside time on a regular basis for SonomaTime transactions, return phone calls promptly, value my time equally with others, and offer my best. (boldface theirs)
In exchange for my pledge, I will receive 5 Hours of SonomaTime.5
SonomaTime co-ordinators hope that by signing this, members will strengthen their commitment to provide services. This was of enough concern to them that, when they implemented the new pledge, they not only made new members sign it but old ones as well as a condition for remaining listed in the directory.
1 Patricia Hamarati, interview by author, 3 October 2000 [phone]. (Transcript).
2 Unlike most programs modelled after Ithaca HOURs, SonomaTime does not fully capitalise their Hours.
-- Sonoma County Community Cash, n.d. Available [Online]: <http://www.sonomatime.org/grow.htm>
[19 April 2001].
4 David Ellison, telephone interview by author, 23 October 2000.
5 SonomaTime -- Sonoma County Community Cash, n.d. Available [Online]: <http://www.sonomatime.org/join.htm> [19 April 2001].