Living Wages and the San Francisco Economy

The Benefits and the Costs

Since 1996 over 35 cities in the United States, including eight in California, have adopted Living Wage laws for workers on municipal service contracts, and an equal number are considering such a policy. A Living Wage level, defined as a self-sufficiency standard, has been estimated for San Francisco at upwards of $14 per hour for a full-time worker with one or more dependents. Most of the ordinances, including the proposal for San Francisco, fall short of this standard.

This report discusses the impact of the parts of the proposed living wage ordinance that cover the employees of city service contractors, both the for-profit firms and the nonprofit organizations, as well as the workers who are home health care aides. We examine each of these groups separately because their situations differ considerably.

A subsequent release of this report, still in progress, will also address the part of the proposed ordinance that covers the city’s lease contracts. Most of the lease contracts involve city-owned land in the Port of San Francisco and at San Francisco International Airport. Although this component of the proposed ordinance would cover a larger number of workers, it will only generate small costs to the City’s budget, and only insofar as lease values are affected.