Living Wages at the Port of Oakland

In June of 1999, a coalition of citizen groups proposed that the City of Oakland’s Living Wage Ordinance should be extended to cover workers employed by leaseholders and contractors of the Port of Oakland. The Port is currently excluded from the City law. The Port of Oakland is the city’s biggest public asset and is frequently touted as the city’s principal engine of economic growth. Businesses at the Port’s three divisions– the maritime port, Oakland International Airport, and the waterfront real estate division, which includes Jack London Square– employ over 11,000 workers and generate indirectly another 11,000 jobs. The Port is planning expansions that will increase these numbers dramatically.

This study estimates the costs and benefits of implementing a specific living wage policy proposal which would cover the leaseholders and on-site service contractors of the Port of Oakland. We based our analysis on the assumption that the living wage policy would follow the provisions of the Oakland law, except that the Port policy would include the category of leaseholders. Leaseholders are only covered in the Oakland law if they receive direct city financial assistance. Following the Oakland law, the proposal we analyzed would require covered businesses to pay their workers $8.30 per hour if they provide health benefits or $9.55 per hour without benefits, with wages indexed to cost-of –living adjustments every year. The proposal would also provide a floor of 12 days of paid leave (and 10 days unpaid leave) for illness, holidays and vacation.

The information used in this analysis is based largely on contract and economic data that we obtained from the Port and from a detailed survey that we conducted of the Port’s leaseholders and on-site contractors. Our survey examined the 140 businesses at the Port who would be covered by the proposed ordinance because they are leaseholders or on-site subcontractors, and who employ over five workers. The survey compiled extensive information on firms, jobs and workers, supplemented when necessary by estimates derived from government data sources, by a briefer survey we conducted of firms located near Jack London Square and by selected on-site interviews. We also obtained useful comments from Port officials and other stakeholders.