The Oakland City Council has the power to raise the minimum wage paid by employers in the city. However, after years of not using this power to raise wages, a coalition of community organizations and labor unions is proposing to “lift up” Oakland’s minimum wage to $12.25 per hour through a popular vote.
In response to this coalition’s campaign, vice mayor Larry Reid is now also sponsoring a minimum wage ordinance to boost the bottom of Oakland’s wage scale to $10.20 an hour starting in 2015.
There are several key differences between Reid’s wage proposal and what the coalition is seeking at the ballot box.
Not surprisingly it’s the $2.05 difference between the two minimum wage proposals that creates the most contrast.
Consider the fact that there are currently very few occupations in Oakland that pay less than $10.20 an hour, but there are numerous jobs in the city that pay less than $12.25. The impact that Reid’s minimum wage would have on Oakland’s lowest paid workers would be incredibly small because few employees fall below his minimum mandated amount. Add just $2.05 more and the number of workers who will benefit leaps upward by perhaps an order of magnitude.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data for the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward metropolitan region only 0.6% of the workforce currently earns on average less than $10.20 an hour. But 6% of workers in the region earn less than $12.25 an hour.
That’s a major jump upward from a virtually insignificant number of workers to a small chunk of the total labor force. (I should note that the BLS statistics are for all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and here I’m assuming that Oakland roughly reflects the broader jobs picture in both counties.)
For the East Bay region, the BLS lists only 8 occupational categories in which the average worker earns below Reid’s wage proposal, but there are 39 occupational categories where average pay is below $12.25.
In other words, Reid’s minimum wage, if adopted, wouldn’t benefit most short order cooks, sewing machine operators, laundry and dry cleaning workers, child care workers, desk clerks, food preparation workers, personal care aides, waiters, and dishwashers.